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.”
What is happening? That’s what Peter had to have been wondering. Just a few hours earlier Jesus had called Peter his rock, upon whom his church would be built. Now he’s calling him the Devil. Not even the son of the Devil, but the Devil himself. Peter may have pushed his way gruffly through the crowd. Maybe he’d had enough of this nonsense, Jesus always speaking in riddles. Peter had been faithful. He’d worked as hard as anybody of the disciple band to usher in the kingdom.
Preposterous. Unless… unless… unless, perhaps Peter thought, Jesus was right and my interests really are on human concerns instead of God’s.
You just have to love impetuous Peter, at least I do. He tries so hard to be a person of faith. He frequently fails. His idea of faith is what he wants, not necessarily what God wants.
I find Peter’s life with Jesus’ an encouragement to my own spiritual walk. He reminds me that when I am surest about having a handle on the things of the spirit and God’s will, that that’s when I best check what is leading and make sure it is God’s voice I’m hearing and not my own. That it’s God’s side I’m on, not my own.
The Lenten Season is, for many Christians, a time of reminding us to be penitent, to be sorry for missing the mark, for reflecting the folly of humankind rather than the glory of God. This scripture lesson reminds us that our spiritual ears may need unclogging so that we can hear the voice of the one who calls us through all time and eternity. As Jesus himself urges us “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Peter heard. The playful wind flew up the hillside, tousling his hair and beard. He grinned, ruefully remembering other words of Jesus. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” In the breeze he heard two questions. Satan or Spirit? God’s interests or human concerns?
His mind made up, Peter gave the rock one last kick, headed back into the crowd, threaded his way back to Jesus and set his face toward Jerusalem.
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Toward what will we set our faces – during Lent and our lives?
How do you distinguish between the Spirit and your own voice?
J. Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, retreat leader, author and photographer. His books include "Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God" (with Beth Booram), "Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Dicernment," and many more. He lives on Ploughshares Farm, 50 acres in exurban Indiana being reclaimed as native hardwood forest and tall grass prairie. He is amazingly witty and good looking for a geezer.