Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12 - Denial and Stumbling Blocks

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.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’ --Matthew 16:21-28
Poor Peter. He often has a good heart but sometimes I wonder what was between his ears. This time he is trying to deny what Jesus is saying about having to go, suffer and die. Peter was a great deny-er, it seems. This time he went far enough that Jesus called him a stumbling block to him and had his mind on the wrong things like earthly human feelings rather than heavenly truths, revelations and prophecies.

I guess it's normal to try to minimize or negate what I interpret as a negative thought in a friend. I find that I usually have two reactions, one being on the order of "Oh, no, it can't be that serious, can it?" or the other, "I know what you mean as I had that same kind of thing just recently." It drives me nuts when someone does that to me (which some do more often than others) so I know my protestations and denials must do the same to them. I mean it to be comforting but often falls very short of that. Looking at Peter, I can see where it could truly be a stumbling block for someone facing something dire and struggling to accept the reality of it. I don't want to think of something awful going wrong in the lives of friends, so I know Peter didn't want it to be so for Jesus either. Maybe Peter and I are more alike than sometime I want to admit.

Peter and I are stuck at the "feeling" level, the level where the heart and emotions often override any mental or logical reaction. Peter can't think about losing his mentor and friend, I can't think of losing those in my life either.

Jesus had a reminder in the passage, a reminder that may seem harsh but it sometimes takes a harsh word or gesture to get the point across. "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me..." Words like that are like a hard slap to the face. There are times when that kind of blow is the only way to get someone's attention and get their mind in the present, not reeling with shock or stuck in denial. Still, one wants to be kind, to be compassionate and empathetic, to be a positive presence, not a stumbling block.

Deny yourself, follow me, lose your life if need be... rough words. How to apply it to my life as it is now, how to keep myself from being a stumbling block? There is a place for silence, for just being present when someone tells me of a hard or sad or impossible situation in their life. They may just need an ear, not a solution and certainly not a denial that such a thing is possible or could happen. Stop putting my own needs and wishes forward when someone else needs the air time. Think of the human Jesus laying out the situation to his disciples and having them support him, not deny his words. It's hard, but it can be done.

It must be done -- with God's help.

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