Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mark 8:27-33)
Today’s scripture is rich in its message. “Rich” because it leads us to understand how to deal with suffering in our lives.
Bear with me a bit as I walk with you through this understanding. It begins with Peter. Many in Israel recognized Jesus as a mighty man of God, even comparing him with the greatest of the prophets. Peter, always quick to respond whenever Jesus spoke, professed that Jesus was truly the “Christ of God” – “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). No mortal being could have revealed this to Peter, but only God. Through the “eyes of faith” Peter discovered who Jesus truly was. He was the first apostle to publicly declare that Jesus was the Anointed One.
But while we believe that God gave Peter the eyes of faith, something else happened. Peter’s humanity gets in the way and he rebukes Jesus for the message he was bringing. It was not the message that Peter expected or perhaps wanted.
So, Jesus rebukes Peter sharply, but also said something to him very instructive. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He tells Peter not “Get away from me!” but “Get behind me!” Jesus wasn’t ridding himself of Peter, but he was pointing out what Peter had been trying to do, lead the Lord rather than follow the Lord.
And this leads us to suffering or, more accurately, dealing with suffering.
We know that God does not create or send evil, or pain, or suffering. But there is also the humanity of every Christian. Since we believe in God, pray to God, invite him into our lives, we have a tendency to want God to take away our suffering or the suffering of someone we love. That’s as natural as can be.
What doesn’t help one who follows Christ is to get mad, or angry when God doesn’t answer on the terms we want – in this example, of taking away the pain in suffering,. keep searching for some goodness which might result from our hurt. Just as Paul could draw a connection between his sufferings and the spread of the gospel, Christians try to discover a way in which our pain can promote God’s kingdom.
That’s hard but it’s part of our mission as his followers. We need to align ourselves with God’s will. In the midst of suffering, that might sound nigh on impossible. That is not to say that God wills suffering. Rather, it is to say that God wants us to draw a blessing from every situation.
Can it be a blessing for others to see the love of a spouse tending to the pain of his/her spouse? Can it be a blessing for one who is dealing with pain, to offer it up to God and, in so doing, remind us that, with the help of God, we can endure? Can it be a blessing when we see the faith of a parent not waver when a child dies?
I think so. Each time in my ministerial life, I found that I was the one consoled and strengthened in faith when I was the one who was supposed to be consoling and strengthening.
Our response to challenges and sufferings in our lives must be trust, for “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can form our hearts and wills to embrace all that God allows through divine providence.). To see our lives as God sees them, to desire what God desires for us, requires that our minds be renewed. The more we love, the deeper our contrition, the better we are prepared for God to work in our soul through his grace.
If we want to share in the victory of the Lord Jesus, then we do have to take up our cross and follow where he leads us. What is the “cross” that you and I must take up each day? When my will crosses (does not align) with God’s will, then his will must be done?
To know Jesus Christ is to know the power of his victory on the cross where he defeated sin and conquered death through his resurrection. The Holy Spirit gives each of us the gifts and strength we need to live as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit gives us faith to know the Lord Jesus personally as our Redeemer, and the power to live the Gospel faithfully, and the courage to witness to others the joy, truth, and freedom of the Gospel.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, I want you to be at the center of my life. I want my relationship with you to be the organizing principle of my life. I want to see my life and the world around me as you do so that I can live more fully for you. Lord, please renew my mind so I can know your will, embrace it, and live it out. “
All too often we approach our faith in purely personal terms, in terms of what it can do for us. “I believe so that I can go to heaven. I believe so that I can avoid temptation. I believe so that I can pray and ask for God’s help.” All these reasons to believe are valid and good. But they are not at the heart of Jesus’ mission. Jesus does not call us inward to a simply personal relationship with God. Jesus calls us outward. He wants us to model the love he has for each of us.