“And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke Him.” Mark 8:32
One thing I’ve always admired about the game of football was the way it is officiated. Given the errors that are part of being human, to officiate or referee a football game is something that; to me; has always given it a sense of clarity and validation as a game of honor.
These men and women are what provide we, the spectators, a level of comfort that no dishonest action is occurring that would give one team an unfair advantage over its rival. The presence of officials on the field that players could trust to be impartial towards them must provide them a great degree of confidence, that their safety and welfare are of concern to the league.
I suspect my personal appreciation of the official’s role is due to the way in which the referee would make known the decision immediately on a play as to how he had determined it to be legitimate or illegitimate. The official would throw a bright yellow flag to ALERT everyone that something was wrong. Something had occurred that would need to be addressed if fair play was to continue.
There is possibly no greater heartbreaking moment in a close, critical game than when a player makes a great play, only to have it called back because one of his own teammates committed a violation which caused them to lose yardage, lose possession; or at worst; provide the opposing team penalty-points.
Also for me, the need for clarity and a sense of direct communication has always been important. Especially now as I am called to lead God’s people on mission with Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit as my guide.
It is of the utmost importance that a spiritual leader be enabled to sense with clarity the formations and plays on the ground. Not only for progressing forward with the mission, but also for recognizing when a foul or violation has occurred.
In a moment of transition for the disciples of Jesus, Peter pulls Jesus aside from the group and begins to challenge Jesus’s recent declaration of His vulnerability and ultimately His pending death.
What Jesus does after hearing Peter’s off-sided, self-serving and immature response is turn and “see” His other disciples. He then does the opposite of what Peter has done. He does not respond to Peter softly in a pretentious tone like that as Peter pretended. Instead Jesus speaks openly and directly to the demonic spirit that is speaking through the unregenerate mind and heart of Peter.
In our world today there are many people who seek to use the same manner of communication. In our culture where technology allows people who have disagreements with others, to contact them from afar; thereby minimizing the inherent tensions which exist through personal contact; everyone seems empowered to directly challenge others. Because they feel as though their words and actions are private, they have a right to say or challenge others as they see fit – or believe they have a ‘right to‘. It is in reality a false depiction of humility and open expression immaturity.
It is no different with God’s people. Like others, we too have access to challenge our leaders in off-to-side engagements, creating the illusion that our conversations are private ones; as though the context and content are not publicly known. But this is not the case in God’s kingdom dynamic. For every word spoken will be judged eventually.
Like Peter, people believe that they communicate in a vacuum. I would argue though, that we as spiritual leaders must learn to become comfortable responding as Jesus did. Especially when we recognize the schemes and strategies of Satan and what is truly at risk.
First, remember, the official who declares the foul always recognizes the player who committed the violation. He makes note of the player’s number and position. The official never attempts to embarrass the player. That is not his objective. Then the official meets with the other officials and seeks counsel. Finally, the official makes an open and clear declaration of the offense before the entire stadium of fans and TV viewers.
Like the official in my illustration, Jesus does not respond to Peter, but to Satan directly. Jesus does identify who made the violation, but directs His rebuke and correction against the true offender working through Peter – Satan.
Secondly, it is important to note that Jesus does not rebuke Peter because ‘he had the nerve‘ to speak to Him out of some form of inappropriate assumption of proximity [closeness]. Jesus rebuked Peter because He saw or rather “read” how this engagement between Peter and Himself was having an impact upon the other disciples.
Jesus had just shared a hard reality with them which was meant to clarify just what ministry and obedience to His Heavenly Father looked like. I can imagine their dismay and sense of unbalance upon hearing of Jesus’s dire future. But before Jesus could continue instructing them, Satan seizes an opportunity to distract from that lesson through Peter’s sense of self-preservation.
Jesus doesn’t confront Peter – but Satan – directly and openly. Jesus then continues what I believe He always had in mind to instruct them in.
That a life that follows Him would entail suffering and loss. Jesus says firmly:
“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his [personal] cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” Mark 8:34-37
This is the message of Jesus Christ. It is certainly not one that His present day or our current culture of accumulation, selfishness, hedonism, and individualism would support. Jesus called His generation “adulterous and sinful”. I don’t believe anyone would argue that our generation would not equal, or better yet surpass such a description.
I exhort leaders today to not whimper in cordial social etiquette when it comes to Satanic influences working through the people who are close to Jesus – or you. Don’t fall for the trick of seeing the person and being sympathetic, at the risk of neglecting the official capacity you hold. Ignoring them while the spirit behind the person attempts to dismantle God’s agenda. Keep your focus on the heavenly prize and upward call which is in Christ Jesus.
This is why the official has a different uniform, whistle and flag.
Like a solid and honorable sports official – call it as a foul or violation when you see it. No matter how much it hurts the fan or the team. The integrity of the game is at stake. And never forget that there are others who follow and love Jesus too, and they are paying close attention to every play – their souls are depending upon your ability to officiate well.
ΑΩ ~ Reverend A. David Griffin, M.Div.