Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
This was the Gospel reading for this morning. It reminds me of a discussion I had recently with a friend of mine regarding the doctrines of predestination and 'free will'. There could be a bunch of passages sited on both sides of this debate. But to me, it all boils down to both sides just seeing one point of view. Or, perhaps, placing a stronger emphasis on one over the other. That debate alone is a prime example of the 'modern' dilemma. We tend to see things from an 'either/or' perspective. We see this in the debate itself, 'Predestination versus Free Will'. It's one or the other. It can't be both. Or so we're told.
Jesus' statement to Peter is that Peter is out of balance. He is seeing things 'merely' from the human perspective. It is important to see, however, that Jesus was not telling Peter to abandon his human point of view altogether. The problem is not the view point. The problem is that it is the only view point. Jesus is calling Peter to look at things more holistically. Jesus is inviting Peter to add God's perspective to his own.
This passage isn't just limited to Peter. We are in the same boat. Time and again we tend to just see things from our perspective. Christians are called to try and see things from other points of view. We are to seek Christ in all persons. This means that we must try and see things through the eyes of others. This is relatively easy when it is our friends or people who are 'liked minded' as the saying goes. But what about our enemies? Do we stop and think about how things look for them? Do we stop and ask God to give us 'eyes to see' how they may view the world around them? This is more difficult and scary. But, I believe it is crucial. When we stop and prayerfully ask God to help us see things from God's perspective, and the perspective of others, we are less likely to make rash decisions. We would have to be more contemplative in our choices. We would have to, God forbid, slow down. This, as I have just alluded, is not something the modern person wants to do. We want to go and go and go. We want what we want when we want it and we want it now. Hang what anyone else thinks. But that is precisely why Jesus reprimanded Peter. More times that not, we are only seeking what's supposedly best for us.
In the context of this passage is the conversation about who Jesus was. He asked the disciples what the surrounding people were saying about him. After giving different theories, Jesus asked them who they thought he was. And Peter said 'You are the Messiah'. This is crucial for understanding the last part of the last paragraph. The titles 'Son of Man' and Messiah (or King) were synonymous in first-century Jewish culture. And the idea of Messiah meant that Israel would finally put the pagan Romans under their heels and crush them. But in this passage, Jesus just took that idol and shattered it at the feet of the disciples. Now we can see why Peter reprimanded Jesus. He was thinking of himself. He was thinking of what was in it for him. Oh, sure, the whole nation would get to be top dog, but he and his buddies would get all of the sweet executive jobs in the new kingdom. There was nothing wrong with the idea of kingdom. The problem comes when the only version you have is the human version. Jesus is saying that Peter needed to see God's version of Kingdom. And God's version of Kingdom were the previous verses. And this brings in another problem for Peter and us as well.
Often times when we finally see the other point of view, whether it's God's or someone else's, it is the opposite of our own. And more times than not, we have to change the way we see things. When we don't it is usually because we don't like where it will take us. When we start seeing God's perspective (or someone else's) it usually means an uncomfortable time of growth. To produce a healthy tree, there is some pruning involved. When our perspective meets another perspective, change must occur. That is why it is so vitally important to stop and prayerfully consider others when we make decisions. It is not all about what we want. For us to be like Jesus, wow... a thought just hit me. Jesus had both perspectives. That is, he was the human being and the Divine Being. He saw things from both perspectives. He is calling Peter, and us too, to be like him. To have both perspectives. Only then, can we actually implement God's Dream in the world around us.
Peace be with you.