“You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
-Jesus to Peter, Matthew 16: 23b
In this important moment in Matthew’s gospel, Peter has just had two vastly different exchanges with his Teacher. The first is his identification of Jesus as the “Christ, the Son of the living God.” For this he is commended. But then? Then Jesus announces he will die. Peter doesn’t like this, and the Lord begins to rebuke him.
For Peter, the notion that Christ has to suffer and die just isn’t right. And: it is quite possible that he has now decided he’s not going to let that happen. He’s trying to deny the stated reality of Jesus in favor of what he thinks is right. In response, Jesus rejects his conversational adversary, informing him he is not thinking in a godly fashion but rather a human one.
From Peter’s point of view it doesn’t make sense that Christ would have to die. Surely he could get out of it if he wanted. Peter could protect him. The disciples could protect him. Not to mention all that miraculous power He had at His disposal. Jesus and His followers had a good thing going, and it could be so in years to come. No need for all the pain associated with death. Peter, quite simply, had things all planned out for the Incarnate One.
Do we have things all planned out for God? It’s a question worth asking. As we now enter the season of politics, I’d like to suggest we remember some of this story. How sometimes our earthly passions, emotions, thoughts, and theories can get in the way of the purposes of the Almighty. Sure, we think we speak for God as we (re)post on Facebook and argue politics and cast ballots. But do we? Do our political passions overwhelm the call of God or color God’s word in such a way that we change its meaning? Do we think we know better than God? Because as Matthew 16 reminds us, we can get it wrong sometimes.
Be careful as our nation enters this politically fraught period, friends. Be careful that you’re close to the mind of the Lord, and not the things of men and women. Rather than just being convinced you know, be deeply convicted to listen to God.