The Good Thing or The God Thing?
Everybody had an agenda for Jesus – do you?
For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.
– Mark 9:31–32
From that time Jesus Christ 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 be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
– Matthew 16:21–25
He began explaining to His disciples the true nature of His mission. He told them that soon He would be given over to the religious leaders and killed. Three days later He would rise from the dead. His disciples heard what He was saying, but they could not bring themselves to embrace the full meaning of His words.
– The HOPE, Chapter 10
Observe & Consider
As the end of His earthly ministry neared, Jesus began telling His disciples that soon He would suffer and die, and three days later rise from the dead. From the Mark 9 excerpt above, “they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him,” it is clear that His disciples had no place in their thinking for what Jesus was saying. And, what’s more, His words were so hard for them to handle that they feared to ask for an explanation.
The response from Peter in the Matthew excerpt above is even more dramatic. Peter didn’t simply fail to understand, but boldly rejected what Jesus was saying. “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Peter is saying “God forbid it” to Jesus, who is God! Jesus responds to Peter so strongly that it is almost startling. “Get behind Me, Satan ...you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Jesus was essentially saying that Satan himself was working through Peter to protest God’s will in action.
Jesus then spoke words that apply not only to Peter, but to everyone who wants to follow Jesus, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
What a contradiction to our natural way of thinking! If you want to save your life, you’ve got to give it up for His sake. This statement challenges the hearer to go far beyond simply acknowledging that Jesus is the Christ (the Deliverer), the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16)! The challenge here is complete abandonment to His will.
Throughout Hebrew history, God reiterated His promise to send a Deliverer who would one day free humankind from Satan, sin and death; who would one day secure the promised blessing for all nations. Jesus was now saying that the road to that blessing was charted through unthinkable suffering and loss. Of course, we want the blessing. But how many of us are willing to trust Him to take us where we do not naturally want to go in order to receive it?
Ask & Reflect
- Why do you think it was so hard for the disciples to accept what Jesus was telling them... that soon He would suffer and die and then three days later rise from the dead? If you were one of the disciples, how do you think you would have responded?
- When you encounter a difficult trial, what is your first response? Are you likely to respond to Jesus as Peter did (“God forbid it”), or do you have a different response?
Decide & Do
We must not look at every difficult thing in our lives as if something has gone wrong. Yes, there may be trials in our path that God does not intend us to go through. Jesus told his followers that with faith, they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23). There are times when God wants us to exercise faith, trusting Him to remove or resolve the trial before us. It would be foolish to endure a trial that God wants us to trust Him to remove.
On the other hand, there are some trials God allows into our lives which He does not intend to remove. In Peter’s case (Matthew 16:21-25), no amount of faith would have removed the trial that Jesus was about to go through, or the difficulties the disciple would face as a result. It was all part of God’s purpose, even though Peter could not see it at the time. Peter wanted what he thought was the good thing; Jesus wanted the “God thing.” If Peter could have known and understood the glorious, eternal purpose of what was about to happen to Jesus, he would have received it, and perhaps even welcomed it.
In James 1:2-4 we read, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Often we do not know the purpose of a trial when we first encounter it. But we can be certain that if God allowed it into our lives, then there is a purpose. And because God is in control, the ultimate purpose is our good and His glory! If God gives you the faith to trust Him to remove or resolve that trial, then by all means, do so. Just be sure you are not playing games with yourself by manufacturing a faith that is not from God.
If God is calling you to follow Him through a trial, then be assured that He will give you the grace to endure it, and the ultimate purpose will be both good for you and glorifying to God!
For Further Study
- Rick James, Unmasking Life’s Trials. (© Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., 2004–2005. http://grow.campuscrusadeforchrist.com/library/journey/trials.html). Retrieved November 2, 2006.
- Walter Chantry, Take Up Your Cross. (© The Reformed Reader, 1999–2006). (http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/chantry/takeyourcrossenglish.htm). Retrieved November 2, 2006.