The Scriptorium

An Offense to God?

If you want to follow Jesus, get behind Him, not out in front. Matthew 16.21-23

Matthew 16: Turning Point (5)

Pray Psalm 77.1-3.
I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.

Sing Psalm 77.1-3.
(Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
My voice to God shall rise; I seek Him on His throne.
In days and nights of trouble I seek God alone!
When I remember Him, then am I sore distressed!
My spirit faints and longs to find in Him its rest.

Read Matthew 16.1-23; meditate on verses 21-23.

1. What did Jesus explain to His disciples?

2. How did Peter respond to this Word and plan of Christ?


We love the salvation that we have in Jesus Christ, especially when we feel free to interpret it according to our own best ideas about what that salvation involves.

And as we see it, salvation involves knowing that our sins are forgiven, being assured of a place in heaven, being part of a good church, having loving Christian friends, and even perhaps a little time each day reading the Bible and praying.

What we don’t like to think about is our salvation being a struggle. Or a fight. Or an inconvenience of any kind to our normal experience in the world. In that respect, we’re a bit like Peter, who, all proud and beaming about his confident confession that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel, was unwilling to entertain any idea of suffering or hardship on His part – and, by association, on Peter’s part as well (vv. 21, 22).

Jesus had just announced His agenda for the course of history: He was going to build His Church as the agent whereby His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. Since He was not yet ready to make this widely known, He instructed His disciples not to declare this agenda just yet (v. 20). He needed time to lay the foundation on which that holy spiritual temple would be erected, and He didn’t want the disciples or the multitude getting on with trying to build the Church before the solid foundation was laid.

That foundation involved His suffering, death, and resurrection. For there can be no Church where sins are not paid for and forgiven, repentance is not a way of life, and the new life of resurrection in the Kingdom has not been established.

Salvation is a cross-marked way of life, as we shall see (vv. 24ff). But that was not Peter’s idea. He wanted a salvation that led from victory to victory, without ever having to engage the struggle required to increase in Christlikeness. Jesus rebuked him as thinking like any man would think about such matters: It should be all fun and excitement and an easy road. Thinking this way about our salvation makes us an offense to God (v. 23). The things of God – the things of Jesus – are the things of self-denial, cross-bearing, suffering, and loving our unlovable neighbors enough to lay down our lives for them.

If Peter was going to be a true follower of Jesus, he’d have to “get behind” Him and let Him lead the way, rather than jump ahead of Jesus and try to lead Him in the path that he thought was best. The same holds true for us.

1. Do we ever try to fit Jesus into our own ideas about what it should mean to be a Christian? Explain.

2. How can we know when any of our ideas, plans, or ways are an offense to God?

3. Our calling as disciples is to get behind Jesus and follow Him, not to try to lead Him down our preferred path. Explain.

When, contrary to what he had hoped, Peter heard this, he was troubled. For the revelation had exhibited Christ as Son of God and the living God, on the one hand. Yet on the other hand, he was found to be preparing for the dreadful events of the Passion. In rebuking Peter, Christ brings to light his own righteous judgment. When Peter confessed Christ, Christ praised him. But when he was irrationally terrified, Christ rebuked him, acting without respect of persons.
Theodore of Heraclea (died, 355), Fragment 102

Help me to follow You today, Lord Jesus, in everything I do, including…

Pray Psalm 77.7-20.
Does it seem as though the Lord has cast off His Church? Is He leaving us to languish in our refusal to submit to His Word and plans? Is there anything in you keeping you from following Jesus more fully? Use these verses to listen for the Spirit’s convicting and renewing voice.

Sing Psalm 77.7-20.
Psalm 77.7-20 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
O Lord, will You reject Your people without end?
Has favor ceased, are You no more our heav’nly Friend?
Your promise and Your love in anger are obscured;
my sin has turned Your hand away, Your beauty blurred.

Now let us call to mind Your deeds and wonders, Lord,
and meditate on all Your works and praise Your Word.
Full holy is Your way, great God of earth and heav’n.
To You, O God of strength and pow’r all praise be giv’n!

The waters and the deeps all tremble ‘neath Your hand.
The clouds give forth, the sky resounds across the land.
Your lightning flashes forth and lights the earth around;
we feel beneath our feet the trembling of the ground.

Your way leads through the sea; Your path the waters parts.
Your footprints are to us deep mysteries in our hearts.
As then by Moses’ hand and Aaron’s law-filled voice,
You led Your sheep, lead us that we may all rejoice!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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