Overflow (Matthew 16:21-23)

Photo by Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash

In the course of the day’s conversation, Jesus has singled out Peter as   someone to whom He would give the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He called Peter blessed. He noted that Peter received a revelation from God the Father. He told Peter that he will have an enormous amount of spiritual authority, and then He shared with Peter and the other disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer, be killed and be raised to life on the third day. That means that Peter also got an unusual prophetic insight into the Father’s plans for Jesus’ own ministry. To say it was a significant day is an understatement. 

In response, Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke Him, ““Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”” 

It is hard to imagine how someone so blessed can fall so far and so fast. One moment Peter receives a revelation of God and in almost the next breath he is called “Satan” and “a stumbling block”! 

No doubt Peter’s spouting of most unwise counsel is the result of a demonic impulse – otherwise Jesus would not have called him “Satan”. He heard Jesus share His plan to overcome death and a visceral urge prompted him to speak against it. Surely in hindsight even he would even say his response was out of place given the day so far. But this episode in Peter’s life merely demonstrates the spiritual immaturity common to us all. For while we are capable of such intimate fellowship with God that we receive revelations and prophetic knowledge, we are equally capable of acting out of our emotions in the moment – and acting out of emotional impulse in the moment is almost always exceedingly foolish. 

God gave us emotions because He has emotions. Emotions are good – they help us discern our wants and they help us respond with wholeheartedness instead of mere mechanical impulse. Yet the emotional response of a fallen creature living in fallen flesh in a fallen world is easily manipulated. We may make wise choices given the right spiritual voice (as Peter did when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say I am?”), but we will surely make unwise choices given unclean spiritual voices (as Peter just did in rebuking Christ at Satan’s prompt).  

The key to a more consistently godly response then, is thoughtfulness about our emotions prior to action arising from them. 

One must learn to discern whose voice is prompting us. Is it God’s? In that case it will be in line with all that God has revealed about Himself and His Kingdom. Is it the enemy’s? In that case it will be opposed to all that God has revealed about Himself and His Kingdom. Is it our own voice only? In that case it is impotent – it neither advances God’s Kingdom within and around us, nor does it detract from God’s Kingdom within and around us. 

Inserting a bit of thought between realizing the emotion and acting on it – or a bit of prayer about it if we are unsure why we feel the way we do – is always spiritually profitable. And it always moves us towards greater spiritual maturity. Amen. 

Remember, nothing we do goes unnoticed. Everything we do impacts our reputation and that of both our earthly and divine family.

Gary W. Derickson

APPLICATION: Intentionality

It is a good habit to think before we act. It is a better habit to pray before even that.