In studying for this week's sermon, I've been reminded of a crucial aspect of discipleship. In Matthew 16.23, when Jesus rebukes Peter (after Peter rebuked Jesus), Jesus speaks sharply to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan!"
The "Satan" part is pretty interesting, but I'm really more fascinated with the "Get behind me" part. It's the very same phrase that we find in these passages:
Matthew 4.19: "And he said to them, 'Follow me [this was the first time Peter heard this phrase from the mouth of Jesus], and I will make you fishers of men.'"
Matthew 10.38: "And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
Matthew 16.24: "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'"
This rebuke is really a call to discipleship, using the language of discipleship. It's not "go away, get out of my sight, leave me alone, I don't want to see you right now." It's a reminder of what it means to be a disciple.
We follow Jesus. We don't get in front of him & try to take the lead ourselves because we know what's best in life (as Peter was attempting to do). We follow behind, in the way of Jesus.
Jesus is saying, "Get back behind me. Return to your proper place as a disciple. I lead; you follow behind me on the way. Sometimes it may seem to you like I'm veering off course & don't know what I'm doing. But my ways are higher than your ways; my thoughts are higher than your thoughts. Trust me. Dare to follow me where I'm leading you."