Grace and Peace to you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Amen.
Have you ever been around a person whose emotions could suddenly switch on you, where at one moment they were happy and all of a sudden they do a hard flip and become very angry? Now I’m not talking about someone whose emotions changes frequently, I’m talking about someone who is capable of these hard switches. It catches you off guard, doesn’t it? Now, what about a person whose emotions rarely changes and has a good head on their shoulders, but retains the capacity to make these hard switches. They are usually calm, and then they are all of a sudden angry. Such anger would throw us off and make us wonder what just happened? What set this usually calm person off? Did I do something wrong? What happened?
A personal example, when I was in college training to be an officer, as a senior, I was inspecting my fellow younger Soldiers as they conducted leadership training through obstacle lanes. I’m on a raised platform overlooking multiple individual courses, each with their little huddle of Soldiers, one appointed as the graded leader of said course. And as I was overlooking I hear from one group, their leader talking in a raised voice and with some choice language. This Soldier is a friend of mine and usually does not act this way; he is usually kind and mild mannered, but now he is acting belligerent. I guess it was either the lack of food or the stress of being graded, but his conduct was shocking.
After seeing this, I responded by also raising my voice and ordered this Soldier to calm down, to stand down, to cool his head off. If seeing this Soldier’s conduct was shocking, my reaction must have been a hurricane; for after I said that, the whole field went quiet. The said Soldier most especially was quiet, and went to the side and cool his head off. Eventually, training continued as usual.
After this exercise, my Lieutenant Colonel told me in her office that that was the first time she has ever seen me visibly angry and raise my voice. She was in shock too, for here is an inspiring chaplain who is usually shy and quiet mannered projecting his anger at a Soldier who is acting up. She was glad that I had this authoritative side, but she honestly had no clue I had it in me.
It is this kind of incident that Peter finds himself in Scripture. Just minutes ago Jesus is praising Peter for acknowledging that Jesus is Christ. Jesus proclaims that the Father has truly blessed Peter, that from here on out Peter was to be the Rock on which Christ’s Church was to be built on, that the keys to heaven were Peter’s, and that he was giving the power to bind and loose. Jesus said all of this, and in a matter of minutes Jesus called Peter Satan!
What happened? What caused this extreme shift in emotions? One minute he praises Peter, the next he calls Peter Satan. And imagine the emotions Peter is experiencing? Probably fear and shock. What happened?
Right after Jesus praises Peter, he starts to talk about his death. After hearing this Peter couldn’t take it anymore, pulls Jesus to the side, and starts to rebuke his Rabbi, his Master, his God. It is because of this rebuke that Jesus responded with such vicious anger, “Get behind me, Satan!” Now when Peter pulled Jesus to the side he did so out of the kindness of his heart. He had concern for his Lord who is talking about how he must suffer and be killed. Peter loved Jesus deeply and did not want to see him depart, let alone suffer. Peter truly had good intentions, but what about the famous quote, “the path to Hell is paved with good intentions?” Just because Peter had good intentions, just because he acted out of love, does not mean his actions were truly Good, Godly even. In fact they weren’t. We know this because Jesus told Peter that his mind wasn’t set on things of God, but on things of Man, and it is because of this mindset that Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” The fact that Peter had good intentions does not mean much. The fact that Peter acted out of kindness and love does not mean much. The fact that Peter wished for Jesus not to suffer but live does not mean much. Peter was still a puppet of Satan; Satan, who was using Peter in order to move Jesus away from fulfilling his role, fulfilling Scripture, and obeying His Father’s commands. Jesus had to suffer and be killed, it was foretold in Isaiah, and, instead of setting his mind on human things, he set his mind on Godly things and was obedient to his own death.
I am reminded of the multiple times in Scripture, for example from our reading in Romans, where we are told to live in the world, but not of the world, or, “Do not be conformed to this world.” To be conformed to this world is to act and think upon the things of Man. Such things that are worldly, things that are of Man, humane things, includes the desire to see others not suffer, to protect each other, the desire to see one’s neighbor or family or teacher live. There are many things that are worldly and appear to be good. But that is just it, they appear to be good. For what if your desire to prevent someone you love from suffering prevents them from fulfilling their desire to proclaim the Gospel? What if your desire to protect someone inhibits their desire to worship God and receive the Sacraments? What if your desire to save someone’s life hinders their desired ability to obey God? In such cases, these good intentions are not things of God, but simply things of Man, and if said someone was Jesus then he would most certainly say, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Jesus had a mission, He was sent not only to teach and to perform miracles, he was sent to fulfill Scripture by dying a most horrific and painful death so that through his suffering and death he may take on all of our sins and shove them into Hell. He died for our sins so that we may not die for our sins. He went to Hell, so that we won’t go to Hell. Someone had to pay for our sins, and Jesus came to be the innocent slaughtered Lamb sacrificed so that we wouldn’t go to Hell but instead live in Heaven with Him the now and forever Risen Son.
So when Satan spoke through Peter, trying to get Jesus off this mission, to disobey God, of course Jesus was furious. But he was also furious for Peter’s sake. For when Peter thought he was acting out of love, he was acting as a pawn of Satan, but Jesus who was acting out of anger was acting out of true love towards His servant. Jesus just blessed Peter, and now Satan is abusing His most trusted ally on Earth. Thus, for Peter’s sake, Jesus was furious and commanded Satan, not Peter, to go away. Get out of the one whom I building my Church on!
It is so interesting how in a matter of minutes both God and Satan spoke through Peter. One time God speaks through Peter, proclaiming that Jesus was Christ, the next Satan is speaking through Peter trying to save Jesus from his fate. The first was a thing of God, the other a thing of Man. But speaking of things of God, what is a thing of God? Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” What does this mean? Quite simply, to follow and embrace and obey God no matter the cost. Such a thing is truly a thing of God for this means you are willing to give up your life for God’s sake, or that you have what the world would view as an extreme form of courageous faith; the extreme courage to stay true to your faith even if that leads to death; the courage to go through trials and tribulations such as the ones Job went through and still hold on to your faith in God and follow Him.
Jesus took up his own cross and died so that we may be saved through Him. In like manner, we must be willing to embrace the cost of following in Jesus’ footsteps. If we truly wish to set our minds on things of God we must be willing to deny ourselves and, like Jesus, be willing to carry our own cross, even if that means dying for Jesus’ name sake.
Such a thing is scary, I understand, as a Chaplain I talk with Soldiers quite a bit about death and the willingness to die in order to preserve the freedoms of all Americans. And as Christians, to look death in the face without fear, to do such while following God, such is a daunting task. So I understand the fear.
There is a cost to following the Gospel and obeying God. We don’t preach a Prosperity Gospel, unlike some conmen. No, we preach a costly Gospel, one that is hated by the world, one that is mocked whenever a preacher or laity die, one that leads many a great men to their deaths. Stephen was stoned to death for his faith. Nero, ruler of Rome, ordered a mass genocide against Christians. Christians are ruthlessly killed for their faith today by, for example, Islamic extremists or Marxist regimes. Throughout history there are many a Christians who went on mission trips and died from some foreign disease, knowing full well that they most likely will get such a life threatening disease. One, for example, is St. Damien the Patron Saint for Leprosy, Outcasts, and Hawaii, who in the late 19th century conducted a mission trip to the Kingdom of Hawaii, before it became a state, to spread the
Gospel and to help treat those suffering from leprosy. At that time the Kingdom forced quarantined all who had leprosy, through an act in order to prevent the spread, on one of the islands, believing the illness of being fatal, incurable, and highly contagious. In response, Damien volunteered to be a missionary to this island of Hawaii, to serve the colony of leprosy, knowing full well he would contract it. And he did, but that did not stop him and he boldly continued his mission work till his death due to said leprosy.
So there is a cost to boldly following God, but know this, no matter what happens to you because of your faith, whether that is through virus or violence, Jesus the Lord our God who obeyed the Father unto death on the cross for our sake, and rose from the grave, will never leave you nor forsake you but continue to bless you, save you, and open there doors to eternal life in Heaven for you.
Let us pray,
Lord God, we come to you with humble hearts asking that you provide for us the amazing courage to not only deny ourselves, but to take up our own crosses to follow you and your every commandment regardless of the cost, for we wish to be conformed not by this world, but by your will and to have our minds set on Godly things. We ask this in your most holy name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.