Stumbling Blocks

Stumbling Blocks

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Matthew 16: 21-24

21 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. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 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.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

In this passage, we experience a deep conversation between Jesus and Peter.  Jesus has just told his disciples that he would suffer and be killed.  Peter interjects to let Jesus know that he will not let this horrible thing happen to him.  Jesus calls Peter, “Satan”, and says that he is a stumbling block because he has his mind set on human things. I suspect Peter had this reaction because Jesus…was his homeboy.  But in all seriousness, Peter has journeyed with Jesus, witnessing him heal, feed and rebuke.  Peter has even been privy to the awesome truths he speaks of God and the new way he is teaching the Jews to be.  Peter has likely developed a great sense of love and respect for Jesus and he doesn’t want to see anything happen to him.  Yet, Jesus sees it differently.  He sees Peter as getting in the way.

I think we sometimes have the same issue – of getting in the way.  Often we get in the way of ourselves and even more times do we get in the way of God’s move in our lives and in the world around us.  Our thoughts and actions take precedence as we seek to do things our way because we believe our way is best and we think we are right.  Sometimes there’s a really fine line between divinity and humanity and we tend to blur it and confuse it all the time.  That’s what I think Jesus was getting at.  He was telling Peter that his own wants and will are getting in the way of the will of the Father and of the kingdom of Heaven.  He was saying Peter’s focus is on self and not on God and because of that Peter was a stumbling block – preventing something else from happening altogether or making something else extremely difficult.  I believe when Jesus refers to Peter as a stumbling block; his is telling him that there is a bigger picture.  It wasn’t just about Jesus’ death, it was about life – that which exists now and forever.

Too often we don’t see the big picture when we make choices.  Admittedly, it can be quite difficult.  However, it isn’t about perfection or immediately getting it right.  It’s about us growing and journeying to that point, wherever it is and wherever it ends, and connecting with God in a way that gets us closer.    In the meantime, we must recognize the ways in which our thoughts, intentions and actions get in the way of the divine and in the way of following Jesus. We have to be real about how we get in the way because if not we become “Satan,” we become the stumbling block that has the potential to prevent divine from showing up in the world in only the way divinity can.