Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but other Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth with be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
It’s funny how in the same story Peter is the Rock on which the church is build, and also Satan. How can he listen to God enough to understand who Jesus is, but not well enough to understand God’s plan for him? It’s astounding! But aren’t we the same way? We love to hear and share the easy stuff, like how God loves us, how Jesus died for us, how our sins are forgiven. Yet we ignore whenever possible the hard stuff, like Hell, or sexual immorality, or giving to the poor, or loving our enemies.
And how does Jesus respond to Peter? He tells him he’s focused on what he wants, not on what God wants. And in doing so he has become a stumbling block not only for himself, but for Jesus as well. (By the way, I love that. It shows that Jesus didn’t always want what God wanted, but He overcame that and did it anyway because it was the right thing to do.) Jesus’s message is clear: we can’t pick and choose from God’s word. It’s all or nothing. We can’t just do what’s convenient, we have to do the hard things too.
Is that going to be difficult? Absolutely! But here’s the good news: God doesn’t expect you to be perfect. Even Peter, the Rock, a man with the keys to Heaven, struggled with this. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. What He does expect is for us to work our hardest to be more like Jesus every day. As the old cliche goes, if it was easy everyone would do it. Like Jesus did when He suffered and died for us, we have to do the hard thing. We have to put God’s will before our own.