In Matthew 16:13-23, Jesus wanted His disciples to know two important truths: (1) that He was the Messiah, and (2) that His death was necessary for the atonement of humanity’s sin. Peter understood the first truth when he boldly proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16), but he couldn’t comprehend the second truth because it didn’t fit with his preconceived plan. The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus, not to watch Him die.
At this pivotal point in Christ’s ministry, He began to show His disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem, experience great suffering, be killed and raised up on the third day (vv. 21-23). To Peter, this seemed like an impossibility so he pulled Jesus aside saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (v. 22). But what seemed so logical to Peter resulted in a severe rebuke from Jesus, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s” (v. 23). Peter was actually opposing the Lord’s redemptive plan with his human reasoning.
We are really no different from Peter because we too can be guilty of putting our own interests ahead of Christ’s. We may get in God’s way if:
We don’t understand the whole story.
When Jesus was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was still determined that the plan not unfold as Jesus said. That’s why he drew his sword to fight for Him. He didn’t understand that Christ’s death was essential for the Lord’s plan of salvation. Sometimes God’s will is unexplainable or seems unreasonable from our perspective because it may involve suffering, pain, or loss. But the Lord’s plan is so much greater than ours because it’s a heavenly one. Although it may include hurt and hardship, it’s always the best.
We are prompted by sincere devotion and loyalty to intervene when someone is hurting or suffering.
It’s difficult to watch people suffer, especially loved ones. Our immediate desire is to fix the situation if we can. We want God to heal every physical or emotional ailment and meet every need, but that’s not always how He operates. Our protective love may actually hinder what the Lord wants to do in the other person’s life. This calls for discernment because Christians should help and care for one another, yet our priority is to follow God’s will. We can’t rescue everyone from trouble, but we can help them by seeking the Lord on their behalf. Instead of immediately requesting relief or healing, we should ask the Lord to keep them faithful, submissive, and humble until He accomplishes what He desires in their lives.
We have a strong tendency to take up another’s offense.
When we see someone being mistreated or misused, we may want to do whatever we can to right the wrong, but the Lord could be working in that person’s life through the unfair situation. If we get between God and what He is doing in someone else, He then has to deal with us before He can achieve His purpose in the other person’s life.
We interfere because of our selfishness.
When Peter denied Jesus three times, he was thinking about his own safety. Being in the center of God’s will requires that we deny ourselves. We must be willing to let Him use painful and difficult situations to sift and sand us into Christ’s likeness. And we also have to trust Him to do the same in the lives of those we love.
We get into trouble when we think we know what’s best, but our good intentions are no good if they get in the way of God’s plans. Instead, we must strive to know God’s best. When we spend time with Him, seeking to know Him and his ways, we can truly follow Him in faith, trusting He knows exactly when and how to act.
This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message, “Are You Getting in God’s Way?” airing this weekend on TV.