Today is the first day in our 32nd week, reading the Bible through in a year. Our scriptures this week are:
- Hosea 1-3; Matt 16
- Hosea 4-6; Matt 17; Psalm 58
- Hosea 7-10; Matt 18;
- Hosea 11-13; Matt 19;
- Hosea 14; 2 Chr 26-27; Matt 20; Ps 61
In Matthew 16, we find that just like we can sometimes get frustrated with people, Jesus got frustrated, too. The New Living Translation does the best job of rendering the level of frustration Jesus felt with His disciples, when they just couldn't understand something that He was trying to tell them.
5Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6“Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 8Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? 9Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? 10Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? 11Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”
12Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
We don't want to picture Jesus as losing His cool, but clearly here, He was so irritated with His followers that He just had to let them know. He questions their faith. "Don't you understand even yet?" he asks them. (I can imagine the look on His face, like He just wants to say, "Duh!") "Why can't you understand?" He just thinks that these disciples are a bunch of idiots! (And, I guess, sometimes we are.)
How frustrating it must be for God, who wants to share spiritual truth with us--and we're just preoccupied with physical things! Jesus spent years with His disciples, and only occasionally did they show a glimmer of understanding about what He was really doing. In verses 13-20, we see just such a hint of understanding--and we read just how excited Jesus got about it, too!
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
20Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Here, the Master is so ecstatic about Peter's insight that He celebrates and rewards His pupil for such a statement of faith and understanding. It must have been one of the highlights of Jesus' teaching ministry, for his disciple to make such a claim about him. "Finally--he's got it!" Yet, Jesus' student wouldn't remain astute for long. Immediately after Peter's declaration of faith, he messes up again. (Note the word "sternly" in verse 20. This indicates that Jesus knew that his disciples would make more mistakes. He had to talk tough with them, in order to keep them quiet about His messianic secret.)
21From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.
22But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
23Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Again, we read the severity of Jesus' rebuke, when the very student who had just "gotten it" now "lost it" right before His eyes. Jesus could have said the same thing, only more gently. He might have said, "Get away from me, Peter--you're being adversarial to my cause." But He chose to call him Satan--The Adversary. Imagine how Peter's heart sank when he heard these words. Jesus must have softened His tone when He said:
24...“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. 28And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
Still, even if Jesus did soften His tone, He still calls them selfish in v. 24.
Perhaps you can identify with Jesus, here. Maybe you have somebody in your life that you're frustrated with, because they just won't learn the lessons that you're trying to teach them. Rather than taking Jesus' words in this chapter as your license to loose your venom on your own disciples, understand that our Lord knows how you feel. He's been there, too. And maybe...just maybe...the most hard-headed of Jesus' disciples wasn't Peter, who could "get it" one moment and "lose it" the next. Maybe...just maybe...the most hard-headed of His disciples is...
Yes, the next time you're tempted to express your irritation to those who are frustrating you, remember how aggravating you must be to God as well. If you're anything like me, then you probably don't "get it" more often than you do. But thank the Lord that He gives us grace. Like He did with Peter, Jesus celebrates and rewards us for those times when we do show insight and faith. Despite His disciple's failings, Jesus called Simon "The Rock." Just imagine how great the new name is, that Jesus will give you (Revelation 2:16)!
Just like Jesus did, how about giving those frustrating people in your life a little grace? Maybe even give them a new name that reflects your hope for them, rather than your disappointment in them. Say it truthfully, and not in a sarcastic way. Let them know that you have high expectations for them, and that you believe that one day, He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).