From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
“Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
My grandmother passed away recently. I have fond memories of her and my grandfather while growing up. When my mom and I moved across the country, it was hard to leave, but we worked even harder to stay connected. My wife, youngest son, and I visited my grandmother last spring. We brought her a favorite lunch, caught up on all our comings and goings, and left unaware that this would be our final goodbye this side of heaven. That hard-to-fathom topic never hit the table.
You might be thinking, “Sorry for your loss, Dan, but how’s this tie into today’s passage?” Well, you need to know something about my family. I was impressed several years ago when my grandmother asked me to lead my grandfather’s memorial service. Up to that point, I had never heard her speak about life ending for either one of them. When the topic of death or anything remotely unsettling came up, my grandmother changed subjects fast. As I read Peter’s resistance to Jesus’ frank revelation about his inevitable suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection, I believe that my grandmother, and most people, would stop the conversation too.
In verse 23, Jesus looked Peter square in the eyes and let him know, “You’re missing the point! It’s not about you.” When we try to tell God that what He says isn’t true, or He gives us a clue of what’s to come, it’s not our place to let our feelings try to impede Him. Peter found Jesus’ assertions hard to fathom. He thought he knew better, thought he could bypass the heartache, thought he could redirect Christ. In the end, Jesus’ close disciple got course-corrected, as always happens when humans try to know and control God’s ways.
I can’t imagine my grandmother and I ever discussing Peter impulsively challenging Jesus, or Christ calling Him “Satan!” in response while she was alive. The story is hard to fathom. The topic is hard to fathom. And the connection to our lives is hard to fathom. The truth is, “hard to fathom” happens a lot in our relationship with God. And we’re still welcome and loved, even if we try to avoid what’s difficult to hear from Him.
- Read Isaiah 40:12 and Isaiah 55:8-9. What do you currently find hard to fathom about who God is or what He’s doing in the world?
- What step(s) can you take to embrace what’s true rather than close your eyes to a potentially confusing, unnerving, or painful reality?
An excellent way to try to grasp the full meaning of the Scriptures is to compare translations. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you go out and buy a bunch of Bibles in different translations. Simply pull up the YouVersion Bible app or visit Biblegateway.com, and you can compare the translations. What new insights stand out to you after you read one or two other translations?