Have You Ever Fallen?
September 3, 2017
Have You Ever Fallen?
It’s been said that nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the one person you thought would never hurt you. In today’s reading, we see Jesus deeply hurt by the disciple to whom He had just promised the keys of His Father’s kingdom.
In this week’s reading, Peter is back in the spotlight. He will ultimately play a critical role in the establishment of the church after Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet, we see him in the boat as the storm hits the Sea of Galilee, unsure of who Jesus is. We see him challenging Jesus to prove His divinity by demanding that Jesus order him to come to Him walking on the waters. In the paragraph just prior to today’s reading, Peter seems to demonstrate that he’s the brightest kid in the class of disciples naming Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. As a result of this, he is designated by Jesus as the carrier of the message upon which His church will be built. Jesus says that he has been blessed by God with that knowledge, for it cannot come from anywhere else and will be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. At the end of the passage, it seems that Jesus feels confident that because of Peter, His Father’s word and the growth of the Kingdom of God on earth will continue.
In the passage we read this morning, only a few sentences after He has named Jesus the Son of God, Peter’s misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus’ messianic role earns him a great rebuke by His Lord. Jews in the time of Jesus expected a warrior king who would rid Palestine of the Romans and restore Israel’s power. So when Jesus said that He would be taken prisoner, suffer at the hands of His captors, be crucified and die, it made no sense to Peter. The Messiah was supposed to win in this world. He was supposed to be strong and victorious for Israel, not be captured and killed. Because Peter has a misconception about the divine nature and mission of Jesus, he doesn’t understand that Jesus’s suffering, death, and crucifixion are all a part of God’s plan to save those who would believe in Him. Out of his love and desire to protect Jesus, Peter exclaims that this fate must “never come to Him!” In Jesus’ ears, these words of temptation echo those that Jesus was subjected to by Satan in the desert. Peter, one of His most beloved disciples, the one who had just named Him the Son of the Living God, has wounded Him to the heart. In a state of sorrowful disappointment Jesus responds, ”Get behind me, Satan.” In one translation, He tells Peter that he is a trap. In another, a stumbling block. In the words of a Reverend Joseph Benson, in a commentary of the Old Testament published in the mid-1800s, Jesus may as well have said, “Thou art acting the very part of Satan, both by endeavoring to hinder the redemption of mankind, and by giving me the most deadly advice that can ever spring from the depths of Hell.” It’s a drastic fall for Peter, from the one who will carry Jesus’ message to an adversary, to Satan.
As He was being tempted the desert, Jesus commanded Satan to be gone from Him. Why would He tell Peter, who He had just called Satan, that he should not get away from Him but, rather, get behind Him? Old Testament interpreter William Barclay, explains,
“Satan is banished from the presence of Christ; Peter is recalled to be Christ’s follower. The one thing that Satan could never become is a follower of Christ; in his diabolical pride, he could never submit to that; that is why he is Satan. On the other hand, Peter might be mistaken and might fall and might sin, but for him, there was always the challenge and the chance to become a follower again. It is as if Jesus said to Peter, ‘At the moment, you have spoken as Satan would. But that is not the real Peter speaking. You can redeem yourself. Come behind me and be my follower again, and even now, all will be well.’ As long as we are prepared to try to follow, even after we have fallen, there is still for us the hope of glory here and hereafter.”
Have you ever been mistaken about how best to do the work of the Lord and then did something completely to the contrary? Have you ever fallen into sin because, well, it’s pretty easy to do, and then caught yourself hoping that Jesus didn’t see it? Have you ever just been drawn in by the lure of materialism, gossip, greed, pride, any of those earthly things that pull us away from Jesus? Just like Peter, have you had times when you are absolutely devoted to Christ, naturally feeling fulfilled by doing His work only to succumb to the temptation to listen to those who tell you to go for the cash, focus on yourself, drag others down with gossip, boast about your accomplishments and worldly possessions?
This passage teaches us that Jesus knows the nature of our weak human souls. He knows that we are prone to sin. He knows that we are going to make horrible choices that pull us away from Him. He knows that sometimes, we will focus on earthly things rather than Godly things. Just like Peter, we can be devoted to Him one minute and taken in by a flashy trick of Satan the next. Just like Peter, our bad choices will disappoint Jesus. Yet, if we love Him, if our hearts yearn to please Him, if we are His, He will continue to love us. He forgives us. He, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, invites us even after our mistakes and betrayals to turn from our shallow, earthly pursuits and follow Him to His Father’s Kingdom.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We are a fellowship of Christians whose goal is to show the love of Christ through the way we live so that through us others may come to know His love.” Let us help each other and those we know accept the invitation of Christ to follow Him and have the light of life.
Dear Lord, You know us better than we know ourselves. You know that we have times of great faith. You know that we have times of straying from your path, for it is narrow and the way can be hard. But you know us and love us. When we stray, Lord, please help us to hear you calling us back, because we know that you will be waiting, hoping for us to follow you again. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.