Have you ever expected one thing and felt like the rug was pulled out from under you when you got something completely different? When I read through the Bible, I wonder if that’s how the disciples felt a lot of the time.
This radical new teacher, insightful and God-led rabbi, called them to come and follow him. He claimed to be the Messiah, someone the Jews had thought would come in and root out the corrupt Roman government. They imagined a strong political leader who was going to make all their troubles go away.
Even after the disciples had been hanging out with Jesus for years, they still retained some of that hope. Despite all that Jesus had taught and shown them, that hope of a political Messiah was difficult to get rid of. When we understand the perspective they were coming from, it’s a little easier to understand why they reacted to Jesus telling them he would have to suffer.
“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:21-23 (ESV)
I love this story! Peter is so human, you can’t help but just love him! When Jesus says that he has to suffer, Peter rebukes him. That’s pretty gutsy! When I read that, I usually think something along the lines of, I would never have rebuked Jesus like that.
But then I usually feel the Holy Spirit reminding me that I’m a lot more like Peter than I’d like to admit. While I might not have confronted Jesus in this manner, I would’ve thought similar thoughts. I would’ve wanted to rebuke Jesus for saying he had to suffer, even if I never said the words aloud.
Then Jesus, of course, highlights the real problem in these verses. Peter was against Jesus’s suffering because his priorities were wrong. When reality didn’t match up with his expectations, he lashed out. I do the same thing. My unhealthy responses just look a bit different. I want what I want, when I want it, and when reality doesn’t match up, I don’t always respond like Jesus.
The uncomfortable truth of Matthew 16:21 is that I am more like Peter than Jesus. Though I may want to be like Christ and focus whole-heartedly on God’s Kingdom, I often get wrapped up in fulfilling my own desires or expectations.
Though I don’t like to write, discuss, or think about it, Jesus had to suffer. He had to do it. There wasn’t a path to our freedom without his suffering and death. The Bible says that “by his stripes, we are healed,” which means that someone needed to give Jesus some stripes. His suffering was for his glory and our benefit.
I have a long way to go, but I do want to become more like Jesus and less like Peter. I want to be more focused on the things of God than on the things of man. I want my priorities to match God’s. I long for my preferences to take a backseat. Of course, Peter did learn these lessons throughout his life—I think it’s no coincidence that he mentions suffering often in 1 and 2 Peter!
Let’s choose to examine our own expectations and ask God to reprioritize any of them that are incorrect. Let’s ask him to fix any belief system that doesn’t line up with him. And, of course, let’s choose to make the Kingdom of God and his priorities our own today. We don’t suffer because we enjoy it or seek it out, but because we, like Jesus, are focused on the radical mission of God.
What does it practically look like to set our minds on the things of God?
How have your perspectives changed as you’ve sought the Kingdom of God?
To go Deeper: Read Characteristics of the Kingdom,
Trading my New Perspective in for Life-Giving Action