FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
GET BEHIND ME, SATAN!
August 7, 2014
Today’s gospel: Matthew 16:13-23
There are terrible words that we should never want to hear from our Lord Jesus. One is “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” Another is “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Today’s is “Get behind me, Satan!” (v.23a).
Now lest we think such would never happen to us, since we are striving to live rightly, the first was said to those who were doing signs and wonders in Jesus’ name. The second was said to probably good people but who were unmindful of the poor. The third was said to Peter, who was the first chosen to be an apostle and who became the first pope.
In Peter’s case, what was his fault? Remember Peter had already accepted Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (v.16). He had already been appointed as the rock upon which Jesus would build his church (v.18a). He had been assured that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (v.18b). He had been given “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (v.19a). He had been given the power to bind and to loose (v.19b). Peter had it all!
So what was his fault? When told by Jesus of his coming passion, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.’” (v.22). Peter rebuked Jesus, the Messiah and Lord! Peter must have felt really strongly about his opposition to what Jesus said. To rebuke is to criticize sharply or to reprimand. Here was the subordinate severely opposing his Master.
But wasn’t Peter just concerned about Jesus out of love for him? Perhaps. Jesus could have been more considerate in his response. But this was an important moment. Having just appointed Peter, coming to the culmination of his earthly ministry, Jesus knew how the error in Peter’s understanding could jeopardize his whole mission. And so Jesus “turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’” (v.23).
Peter was preventing Jesus from fulfilling his mission, that of going to the cross, so that humankind might be saved. Thus Peter was doing the work of Satan, who opposes Jesus in everything and seeks to thwart God’s plan. Thus Peter had become the personification of Satan himself.
We are of so much less stature than Peter in our relationship with Jesus, in our assignment in the Kingdom, and in our status in the Church. We may be serving Jesus, we may be good people at heart, but we can still end up being an obstacle to God’s plan and thus be condemned. How?
* When we say “Lord, Lord” but do not actually do the will of the Father.
* When we lack integrity.
* When we are morally corrupt as we gossip, malign others, cause strife and disunity.
* When we are unmindful of the poor.
* When we insist on our own ways, contrary to the direction of the community as mapped out by its elders.
We should not want to be thus severely rebuked by Jesus. So we should strive not to be in Peter’s position. How does that relate to us in our community?
First, strive to be docile to the Spirit and submissive to the vision and direction of the community’s leadership. If the vision has been explained, if all questions have been answered, if the Church has been affirming the community direction, if we are seeing good results on the ground, if there is nothing morally offensive about what the community is tasked to do, then your response should be clear: obey and move forward as one. Do not be hard of heart and hard of hearing.
Second, be aware that Satan will always try to get you to veer away from the direction God wants. And obviously Satan will come as an angel of light, and give seemingly good arguments for why the community direction is wrong. Your posture is not to think as human beings do, and certainly not under the influence of the enemy, but to think as God does. Now God imparts His thinking through His prophets and anointed leaders. Listen to them. Try to truly understand what they are saying. Humble yourselves.
Third, as the vision and mission are explained but you still find it hard to accept, do not cover your personal opposition with saying that you are only thinking of the good of the community. Peter said as much, giving as the reason for his opposition that of not wanting Jesus to undergo the passion. But was it rather that Peter had his own idea of the Messiah as the triumphant King rather than the suffering servant? Could he have been seeing his own hopes and dreams, especially as he had just been appointed to such lofty tasks, disappearing? It is not about you! It is about God and the mission entrusted to those He appoints as elders over the community.
Let not Jesus tell you, “Get behind me, Satan!”
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