“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”
What a severe indictment that Jesus has against Peter!
Let’s be honest, is it possible for any human being to think any other way than “as human beings do”? Is this expectation far too stringent for us? At first glance, Jesus seems to have set an impossible expectation for his followers; however, He has been painstakingly paving the way since the beginning of his public ministry; pioneering a brand new pathway for all who are willing to follow. One thing is quite clear: Jesus never promised an easy or obstacle-free journey; however, He did promise that He will always be with us, “to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
The truth is that the way of Jesus often seems counter-intuitive.
God sends Jeremiah to be a prophet and the voice of truth; sounds like a pretty cool job, right? Think again! To Jeremiah, being a prophet for God means becoming “an object of laughter” and mockery; “the word of the Lord has brought … derision and reproach all the day” (Jer 20: 7-8). He became so frustrated that he wanted to stop speaking about God and “speak in his name no more” (9). It turns out he can’t because the strength it takes to contain the “fire burning in [his] heart, imprisoned in [his] bones” is too much to endure (9). Once we have experienced something as amazing and wonderful as God’s love; the genie is out of the bottle so to speak, there is no holding back! Often, when we happen upon opportunities to speak God’s name and bear witness to God’s love, intuition tells us to proceed with caution because we will most likely be ignored or ridiculed, or worst still, rejected and attacked; all probable; however, the truth, like the fire burning in our hearts and imprisoned in our bones, refuses to be contained. Remember the close call of Jesus as recounted by Luke? After reading the words of Isaiah, Jesus boldly proclaims that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). Sensing the crowd’s anger, Jesus adds, “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town” (24). The crowd became so agitated that they “got up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill … so that they might hurl him off the cliff” (29). Despite the challenges, Jeremiah continues to speak about God, and on that day of the synagogue, Jesus escapes unscathed and continues His ministry.
St. Paul reminds us, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2). The world tells us that religion is nothing but foolishness and division, and faith is just an illusion. Why waste time and energy chasing a mirage? On the contrary, Christ tells us, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life” (Mt 16: 26).
Being disciples of Jesus means we always have tough decisions to make. Jesus willingly walks towards His own death in order to fulfill His father’s will, even when Peter vehemently expresses outrage and raises his objection. Anyone who loves Jesus as much as Peter does would instinctively want to stop Jesus from making what seemingly the worst mistake of His life! That’s why it is so important for us to “discern what is the will of God” (Rom 12:2). What pleases us may not be the right choice; we must always consider whether it is pleasing to God.
How, then, do we discern God’s will? Perhaps a good place to start is prayer:
“May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call” (Eph 1:17-18).