Oh Lord, your word is like bread—nourishing my mind and spirit. Etch your truth into my heart and mind as I read, and teach me your ways, that I may walk in them.
I was planning to finish Mark today, but I read just three verse and realized that was more than enough for today’s meditation! So read Mark 8:31-33:
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:31-33 ESV)
Jesus has just asked his disciples who they say that he is, and Peter has just answered: “You are the Christ.” And then, in today’s passage, Jesus began preparing his followers for the inevitable: he taught them that he—the Son of Man—would suffer, be rejected by the religious leaders, be killed, and after three days, rise again. “He said this plainly.” No parables here, no metaphors—he told it to them straight. He said that these things “must” happen.
But Peter did what any of us would do: he tried to talk Jesus out of it. There must be another way! he might have thought. Jesus, let’s do something else. Let’s figure out how to avoid this. And Jesus famously said what most of us would never dare say to a friend: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
The word “satan” is derived from a Hebrew word meaning, “to oppose.” Jesus has just said this “must” happen, and Peter is essentially opposing God’s will—and tempting Jesus to oppose it as well. But Jesus is so vehemently committed to obeying God that anyone who tempts him otherwise becomes the opposition. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “You’re my friend and I love you. But if you ever try to make me choose sides between your will and God’s, I’m always going to choose God’s side—and you will be as good as an enemy to me.”
That is radical obedience. And I wonder if I even come close to that kind of obedience. Actually, I don’t wonder; I know I don’t.
Have you ever been in a situation where you know the “right” thing to do, the “godly” thing to do, but that is not the “popular” thing to do, or even the thing you want to do? It’s a pretty hard place to be. People begin gossiping about another person, someone you really don’t like, and all you want is to join the fun—but you know gossip is sin. A co-worker tries to involve you in an unethical move that would really benefit you professionally, and you know you will likely never get caught, and it would be so easy to go along with it (and so hard not to), and you’re tempted. God is calling you to make a radical move—quit your job in order to be more available for ministry, relocate your family in order to help plant a church or teach ESL in an unreached part of the world, whatever it might be… and the people you love, the people you’re closest to—even people who love Jesus—try to talk you out of it. And part of you would like to be talked out of it—the decision you’re facing will cost you.
We face situations every day that force us to choose between a really difficult and costly act of obedience, or the much easier path of finding some other way, some alternate to flat out obedience to God. And it is in those moments that we have to be ready for radical obedience. My friend had a basketball scholarship at college, and she felt God calling her to give it up in order to pursue a different calling, one that took her overseas as a missionary and, eventually, into full time pastoral ministry. Many people tried to talk her out of it—she was giving up a great opportunity! God would never give her such a great gift and then ask her to lay it down! But she chose obedience—and God has really blessed her. It felt costly at times, but she lives in the joy of knowing she is walking obediently. I know many stories like this, and I even have some of my own.
When God calls us to something really hard, we are tempted to find a way around it. And when we see God calling someone we love to something hard, something that might really cost them, even their lives, we are tempted to talk them out of it. But there is no way around obedience except disobedience. You can’t obey God if you are trying to find a way around his will.
Imagine if Jesus had listened to Peter. I am so grateful for the cross, for the death and resurrection of Christ. Think about what he accomplished for all of humanity in that act of obedience, as he set his face like flint and considered not the temporal joy of getting out of the suffering, but rather the eternal joy of laying down his life as a ransom for many—generations of believers, swarming the throne of grace, singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord! Worthy are you, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth!”
Imagine if Peter had succeeded. Where would be?
There was so much riding on Jesus’s radical obedience in this moment. And we must not think that the same is not true for us. As we consider this very sobering moment in Jesus’ time with his disciples, let’s consider our own lives. Are we determined to live in radical obedience to God—even when obeying God will cost us? When a friend, someone we love and respect, tempts us to disobey God, are we prepared to put God first and obey him? Are we prepared to set our minds on the things of God, and not the things of men?