Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 3, 2017
When the Rock Becomes a Stumbling Block
We have two rebukes in this text. The first is a mild rebuke, more like a caution given to Jesus by one of his most trusted disciples, Peter. Jesus had just elevated Peter into a position of leadership (Matthew 16:16–19), and perhaps Peter thought that he now had power and authority to scold Jesus for speaking about his death at a time when his ministry was at a high point. Peter meant well. He couldn’t understand the sudden shift to talk about death at a time when Jesus had just spoken about life.
Then Jesus sternly rebuked Peter in words similar to those he spoke to the devil at the end of his temptations in the wilderness: “Get behind me, Satan.” It seems as if this rebuke was directed not so much to Peter himself, for Jesus knew he meant well, but to Peter’s words in trying to deflect Jesus from his God-given path to the cross. Peter was sincere, though ignorant that Jesus’ call was completely different from his. Jesus knew that as Messiah his call was to suffer, and it is that which led him to the cross. Peter had no knowledge. According to Peter, such confession should not have come from Jesus.
We are called daily by God to fulfill our call and walk in the path that God has called us, even if it means to sacrifice those things that are dear and important to us. This of course is a lonely path—a path that may not make sense to others because they do that have that sense of conviction or purpose. That is quite OK, as long as it makes sense to you. Each one must remain loyal to that call by using his or her unique skills, gifts, and abilities as the Holy Spirit enables.
Jesus’ rebuke was meant to be a teaching moment for Peter, not to label him as Satan. That is, the lesson is never to be a stumbling block or deterrent to others who have been called for a particular purpose, even if it does not make sense to you.
Rowan Simmons, pastor, New Dawn Moravian Church, Toronto, Ontario