"Say It Ain't So" by Pastor Welty

In Matthew 16, Jesus explained to his disciples about what was ahead for them.   He explained that he would go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed and three days later be raised to life.  That is a lot to swallow, and Peter refused to swallow it.  Peter actually rebuked Jesus saying:  “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” 

When Peter heard Jesus' ominous words, he was like the legendary little boy who heard that Joe Jackson admitted that he took bribes to throw the 1919 World Series and pleaded,  "Say it ain't so Joe. Say it ain't so".  Peter didn't plead "Say it ain't so Jesus", but rather declared, "Never, this won't happen".   At that, Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 

Jesus' strong reaction makes me wonder if Peter's words presented a temptation to him like the temptations that Satan had presented in the wilderness.   We know from the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus grappled with submitting to the cross but finally surrendered.  Out of desperation, Peter's words, while strong, were likely a plea to Jesus to somehow avoid the cross.  After all he and his friends were enjoying following Jesus, hearing him teach, seeing him touch people's lives and work miracles.  These men had probably never felt more alive than when they were with Jesus.  When Jesus said it was going to end, Peter reacted strongly, and Jesus responded to Peter's reaction with equal strength, indicating that the way of the cross was the path He had to follow, and perhaps Peter's pronouncement was seen as a temptation to avoid the cross. 

Sometimes when we are confronted with a difficulty which we know God could alleviate, we want to assert our will in the situation like Peter did, but we may be missing God's will in the big picture.  It's good for us to express our desire to God, our wish that he would intervene, but we must also acknowledge His sovereignty and that His ways are clearly beyond our ways. 

When Stephanie first got sick in 2009, I began to object strenuously to what was happening to my wife, in my daily prayers, and as time passed and the medical complications mounted, I continued to pray daily for every problem.  Early on the Lord brought the story from Luke 18 to mind about the persistent widow.  Jesus told the story to show his disciples "that they should always pray and not give up."  So I followed that leading and every day would plead for God to heal her. 

After Stephanie passed away, a friend of mine asked me an interesting question.  He asked, "In the time that Stephanie was sick, did you ever sense that God promised to heal her?"  I realized that the answer to that was "no".   A few weeks before Stephanie passed away I sensed a prompting from God.  Like Elijah in 1Kings 19, I didn't hear God in the wind, earthquake or fire of a sensational display of His power in healing of Stephanie; rather, I heard His voice in the whisper, which told me to stop praying about her specific illnesses, but rather to pray that He would heal her.  That's what I did, and that's what God did.  As much as I wanted to assert my will and have my wife back, God has blessed me with His assurance. Please don't think that I'm under the illusion that I could have somehow manipulated God into allowing Stephanie to live, but I could have been more resistant to His perfect will.  I know that Stephanie's death was her ultimate healing, and I am learning to accept that although I miss her terribly.

Peter was troubled by Jesus' words and wanted to force his will on Jesus.  I can understand that, but I realize that I would have been interfering with what God was doing in Stephanie's life.  Now as I'm approaching the first anniversary of her death, I affirm my belief that God's will was done in her life, and that she is now completely whole. But at times when I come home to a house that was once filled with the life, love and many interests of Stephanie, but is now empty, I still want to say, "Say it ain't so Jesus, say it ain't so."