13th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 17) LSB #’s 461:1-4, 490, 917
Text – Matthew 16:22
And Peter took Him aside & began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
TAKING JESUS ASIDE
Years ago I spent a day at church camp during a teenage servant event. In the evening, time was scheduled for growth activities, & that particular night was planned for doing a ‘Trust Walk.’ It’s an activity designed to help you grow in your ability to trust someone else.
Half the group is blindfolded, & each person of the other half gets to lead one of the “blind” without using words. Even laughing is not permitted. The only way for the leader to “communicate” is through touch. We went through several cycles each, of being the leader, & being the led.
I’d never heard of this, so naturally the counselors decided I should be one of the first to be blindfolded. When the whole group was ready we left on our walk. The 1st several steps were very unstable, almost to the point of feeling dizzy. My hands reacted immediately by going out in front of me.
I could feel a strong resistance, to being led, washing over me in spite of my feeble attempts to trust my leader. Without sight, my hearing seemed to be amplified, & the slightest sounds became worrisome. I could hear people stumbling & falling, dragging their feet & gasping at unexpected surprises.
During the entire 1st walk there was a constant temptation to peek, or to ask for words of guidance. My mind was searching for some kind of shortcut, s ome way to lessen the anxiety or the stress. I simply did not want to trust. Nevertheless, in spite of being totally unable to see, the entire exercise was a very eye “opening” experience, exactly as it was meant to be. Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew records what Jesus intended to be a very eye opening experience for His disciples. In the verses just previous, Peter had boldly confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now it was time for Jesus to reveal exactly what the work of that Son was to be.
Here, He’s not speaking in clever stories, like the parables. In this case He clearly describes His mission; suffering, death & resurrection. It seems that His last words ‘raised to life’ got lost in the shock of what the apostles were hearing, & they’re no longer off to the side mumbling, “What does Jesus mean by this parable.”
Peter immediately takes Jesus aside & rebukes Him: “Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22b ESV) Peter had not yet learned to trust Jesus completely. Peter couldn’t see the whole picture, so he didn’t want to be led to the death of his Lord. He was resisting for all he’s worth. It appeared to be the responsible thing to do.
If a friend of yours started talking like Jesus you might assume that friend had become suicidal, & would want to try & stop it. When it first occurred to me that God might want me to enter the ministry, after that initial impression wore off, I thought I must be going crazy.
I’d never done anything to prepare for it. I had my own business, my own house, & I was living where I grew up & wanted to stay. I was set. To give it all up, to chase off after some whim, would clearly be irresponsible.
God couldn’t want me to be a pastor. I must be hallucinating or going on some kind of ego trip. I had plenty of excuses. Like Moses, I was scared to death of talking in front of people. I didn’t have a college degree. I had a lousy memory for bible verses, & I loved to listen to Heavy Metal music.
I really didn’t like children, & I wanted nothing to do with sitting in an office writing
sermons & Bible studies. I loved being my own boss & earning as much money as I possibly could. Besides, I was already helping people. I was leading Bible discussion groups & serving on the board of trustees & evangelism. What more could God want from me? For six years I took Jesus aside & explained to Him that He must be mistaken.
Obviously Jesus had the wrong guy. Yet when an opportunity came to write my 1st Bible study, I still don’t understand it, but I didn’t refuse. When the chance to attend a layman’s Bible study at the seminary arrived, I went. God was working in my life, slowly but surely, to change my point of view.
What about you? Have you ever had someone really close, who went through a traumatic period of suffering & you wanted to help? But then realized you had no clue how to go about it? You’d probably just mess it up anyway! Better to leave well enough alone. Lord, couldn’t you find someone who knows what they’re doing to help?
Have you struggled with feelings of guilt & had to press them down, to get rid of them; to make them go away? Have you vented your anger on your children or spouse? Have you cheated someone to put yourself ahead? Have you spoken words that you knew should have been withheld, but were just too good a story to tell?
You may not realize it, but you have been taking Jesus aside & reasoning with Him. “Lord, my sin, it’s not really a problem. I can handle it. Besides, I didn’t mean to hurt that person, &, well, apologizing would just stir it all up again. They aren’t innocent either.”
After awhile, the guilt becomes so strong you can no longer even look at the person, let alone talk to them or apologize. The guilt weighs you down & you’ll try anything to relieve it, anything except what God asks you to do.
Didn’t it strike you, how Jesus responded to Peter’s rebuke? He turned & said to him,
“Get behind me, Satan!” You see the devil was using Peter to tempt Jesus just as Satan tempted Him after He was in the wilderness those 40 days & 40 nights. And isn’t it just like the devil to take us aside when he wants to tempt us? ‘Divide & conquer’ is a well-known rule of warfare. Satan uses the same tactics.
If he can take us aside, if he can get us away from our brothers & sisters in Christ, then we are much more vulnerable. Have you been reasoning with Jesus why it just isn’t possible for you to be in Bible study, personal devotions, prayer, or actively serving your congregation? Then recognize this – Satan has been taking you aside, & tempting you.
The Great Deceiver has been reasoning with you, obviously convincing you, to step away from the support system that God has given to sustain our trust in Him. And in taking Jesus aside, to rationalize away our sins, we are becoming the very tool of Satan, & Jesus’ words then apply to each & every one of us: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me!”
Those are harsh words aren’t they? Can you relate to how Peter must have felt as they lit into his heart & convicted him? Facing our sin head on is the most difficult task we have in life, & our sinful nature is to avoid that at all costs.
To top it off Satan is right there helping us to avoid it; reasoning with us, cajoling us, accusing us: “Come with me, step aside; I have something you should know.” Where do you turn for help at times like those?
I talked to a man once who said he’d considered suicide because He just didn’t know where to turn, or what to do. Satan had been pulling him aside for so long that he felt all alone, & too weak to fight the battle any longer. Have you been putting God off because you couldn’t see where He was leading you; & you’d forgotten, or never even learned, how to trust Him?
Maybe you don’t trust Jesus to heal your hurts, so you take it upon yourself to find relief.
You drink just a little. You go anywhere but church to get away from it all. Work begins to consume more & more of your time, as you try to make up for your inadequacies & your failings. You spend time wallowing in self-pity to punish yourself for your sins. Recognize this – Satan has been taking you aside.
That’s why Lucifer used Peter to rebuke Jesus so strongly after He clearly prophesied His suffering & death. Satan knew what the work of Christ was. He knew what Christ’s suffering & death were for, & he wanted Jesus to forsake that mission. He was using Peter, under the guise of caring for Jesus, to tempt our Lord to give up His suffering & the cross.
For it’s only at the cross that our sins can be paid for that we might have eternal life. And it’s only someone holy & perfect whose sacrifice can pay for the sins of the entire world. Jesus was that sacrifice from the dawn of eternity. He’s already paid for those times when you were the agent of Satan, & took Jesus aside to reason with Him.
The Son of the living God has paid for the times you may have left a suffering friend high & dry. He has died for all those angry outbursts & for the gossip. Jesus has suffered in your place for the times God planned some good work in advance, for you to do, but you were too preoccupied with your own self-importance. PAUSE
God is slowly but surely at work in your life this very moment. He’s only asking you not to reject Him, not to turn away. He’s right there beside you & desires to teach you how to trust Him. He’s reaching out with an outstretched arm. He wants to comfort you, & to hold you.
In the trust walk, the most comforting way someone could lead you was to wrap their arm around your shoulders. That’s what God is doing for us through our fellow Christians. Just as each of us has one body with many members, so in Christ we who are many form one body, & each member belongs to all the others. Learning to trust each other helps us learn to trust God. As we learn to trust that Heavenly Father, we can lose ourselves in Jesus, the selves that feel the guilt & shame for our failures. To lose that self is to trust in Christ, the Messiah whose work was to die & then to rise again. That work is done. It’s finished. In trusting Him, & His death & His resurrection, that’s where we are set free of our sins & of this body of death.
It took awhile to learn to trust my leader in the trust walk, yet, by the end of the exercise it was noticeably easier. As you learn to cast your worries on Jesus, as you learn to trust Him for all your earthly needs, as you learn to give Him your anger & your bitterness, you’ll notice that you’ve gained far more than you have lost.
So close your eyes, stop taking Jesus aside, & put your trust in Him. He’s waiting to put His arm around you. He’s waiting with an outstretched arm, to comfort you, to strengthen you, & to guide you. Amen.
Jesus lives! The victory’s won! Death no longer can appall me; Jesus lives! Death’s reign is done! From the grave Christ will recall me. Brighter scenes will then commence; this shall be my confidence. Amen. LSB 490:1.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet