“From that time Jesus began to show to 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 the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’ " (Matthew 16:21-23).
How do you respond when God gives you a command through His Word that is difficult to accept or understand? How do you react when God tells you something you really don’t want to hear?
As Jesus continues His ministry, He journeys with His disciples into the region of Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13). While there, Jesus asks His disciples a question about who they thought He was (Matthew 16:14-15). Peter responds by telling Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). After blessing Peter for drawing this conclusion, Jesus adds, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus was going to build an everlasting kingdom, the church, and Peter would play a key role in leading people into that kingdom when He would be privileged to preach the first gospel sermon following the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 16:19; Acts 2:14-41). Peter must have thought this was great news to hear from Jesus!
However, as the opening verses above indicate, Jesus also had some news that His disciples did not want to hear. After leaving Caesarea Philippi, Jesus would be heading to Jerusalem where He would suffer, be killed, and be raised from the dead (Matthew 16:21). How would you have reacted if you were in the disciple’s shoes upon hearing this from Jesus? Remember, they had left all to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19-20; 19:27). The news that Jesus was going to leave them left them sorrowful (cf. Matthew 17:22-23). In fact, this message was so difficult for Peter to hear that he rebuked Jesus saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus strongly rebuked Peter saying, “"Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).
How do I handle it when I come across a command of Jesus that is painful to hear? Am I mindful of the things of men or the things of God? The ability for me to deny myself is essential to being a follower of Jesus. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). We have to learn to let go and even lose our wills and our desires and embrace God’s Will for our lives; otherwise, we can end up losing our souls because of our desire to cling on to our own stubborn will: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
The gospel message of how Jesus came to die for me that I may be forgiven of my sins, place my faith in Him to guide me, have a church family to encourage me in my walk with Him, and cling to the hope I have of heaven is certainly news that I love to hear. However, Jesus also gives me commands to follow that are not always easy to hear and He warns me of the persecution I will face in following Him. Today, I will embrace both the news that is a joy to hear from Jesus and the news that is more challenging to hear from Jesus as I seek to be a friend to Jesus as He leads me!
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).