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Lent Reflections Week Two: Rebuking God

Lent Reflections Week Two: Rebuking God

Monday March 1

The Rev Tommy MacNeil continues our Lent reflections with a look at the time Peter rebuked Jesus

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8: 31-38, NIV)

Have you ever rebuked God? ‘Unthinkable’ I hear you say. You would think so, but it’s exactly what Peter did on hearing the news of Jesus's future suffering, rejection, and ultimately, His death. I love what Mark tells us concerning this: ‘Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him’ (Mark 8:32). Good luck with that Peter!

Maybe we’re not as hot-headed as Peter, but I’m sure there have been times where we felt the need to have a little word with God because we struggled or even disagreed with what He was doing. Maybe part of our Lent reflections needs to be our saying sorry for getting things so wrong. He knows. He understands. He forgives.


Last week we saw that John the Baptist resisted the idea of him baptising Jesus (Matthew 3:14). Peter went a step further. He stated he would refuse to allow Him to be crucified. ‘Not on my watch’ said Peter. We know it didn’t work out too well for him. He promised he would defend Jesus with his life, but he ended up denying Him.  To protect himself, he then made sure there was good distance between them (Matthew 26:58). And this at a time Jesus needed Him most. Have we ever looked to create distance between us and God? The best of us can be fickle at times. He knows. He understands. He forgives.

Rebuking God is stark enough. But imagine the all-knowing and all-seeing God then calling you Satan? You know you’re having a bad day when God has reason to call you Satan! It wasn’t that Peter was Satan, it was that he had a limited understanding of the plans and purposes of God. As such he inadvertently looked to resist the perfect will of God. His finite mind couldn’t comprehend the concept of the Son of God dying so that we might be forgiven. 

Jesus made it clear to Peter and so for us: ‘You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’. When we put pleasing ourselves first, Jesus challenges us with the truth that we’re in danger of resisting and rejecting the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. None of us want to do that. He knows. He understands. He forgives.

Peter and Jesus have had an intense exchange. How would Jesus lead out of this? Rather than lessen the challenge of following Him, He turns up the heat. He speaks to the crowd and introduces them to further aspects of His ‘upside-down Kingdom’. To follow me means you must deny yourself, and ultimately die to self. If you want to save your life, you have to lose it. Hold on a minute? This isn’t what I signed up for. Actually, as a disciple of Jesus it is. He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He didn’t first do for us. Maybe we need to be reminded of that today.

Over the past twelve months how many things have we thought, said, or did that we really wished we hadn’t? How can we hope to make sense of what’s happened in our world? Don’t worry. Let Peter remind you and let me reassure you - He knows. He understands. He forgives. Let’s live unashamedly for Him who gave His all for us.

The Rev Tommy MacNeil is minister at Stornoway: Martin's Memorial Church.

Lent Reflections
Week One