Every Monday, I post a reflection on the previous day’s Gospel reading often seeing ways those readings speak directly to those suffering from marital difficulties, abandonment, divorce, abuse, or similar tragedies. I believe God has given me a gift in the way I see things through my experiences and in His power to overcome them.
But today, I struggle with the Gospel of Matthew.
The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 16 13-20 is something I’ve thought about many times over the years and still have few answers for so I’m looking for help from my readers. Perhaps my lack of understanding here is God’s way of keeping me humble, of showing me I don’t have all the answers, or perhaps it is His way to keep me hungry for Him, to seek more of what flesh and blood cannot reveal but what only my Heavenly Father can reveal.
My question is this:
When Peter recognized Jesus as the Christ, as the Son of the living God, Jesus said to Peter,
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
which leaves me asking, “Why does Jesus not reveal Himself to all of us, to all humankind? Is it because of free will? Do we have to accept Him into our hearts to have Him revealed to us?” I do believe this is part of it, but it almost sounds like free will has been taken away here and God decides who He reveals Himself to.
If that is true (I don’t know that it is) are certain people predestined to be saved while others are predestined to be destroyed in hell for eternity? Are those committing atrocities, such as those committed against Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere, just “lost causes?” Why doesn’t God reveal Himself to them? Could we be doing more to help reveal God to them? Do we have the right to ask God to give more of Himself?
I cannot tell you how uncomfortable I am writing this. It would be so much easier to write about Peter being the Rock or about the keys he is handed or who Christ really is, not John the Baptist or Elijah or anyone but the Son of the Living God, but that gets us nowhere.
That’s taking the easy way out.
And I have learned that the easy way out isn’t always the best way out, and we need to admit to our shortcomings and downfalls, our limited understandings and our failings.
And I am failing to understand this one verse, and that bothers me. I want to be prepared if I am ever questioned about it, so please help me understand.
Is my failure to understand this a question of my wanting control? Is it possible that I am afraid that it takes more than my acceptance of God to have God reveal Himself to me, that He must accept me too, and that, despite everything, a bit of me still fears I am unacceptable? Is it possible that I am afraid that if God decides not to reveal Himself to me one day, that I will lose Him too? Is the leftover sin from past relationships affecting my present relationship with God?
God’s Love is never ending. He is capable of a Love and a Promise none of us is capable of, but why were we chosen to have God reveal Himself to us? What makes us “better” (for lack of a better word) than those God does not reveal Himself to?
If only the heavenly Father can reveal Himself (I know I am powerless to do this) how do we “get” God to reveal Himself to those who do not know Him?
Thank you for joining me and helping me understand, and, if there are no answers, I will still thank the Lord for all that He has revealed for me, pray for greater revelation (although that sometimes scares me), and wait (somewhat) patiently for the day I understand more or trust so deeply that understanding is not necessary.
12 thoughts on “Chosen: Help Me Understand The Gospel of Matthew”
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“For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” What Jesus is saying here to Peter (and all listening) is that it was not Peter a human being who said Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; but it was God through the Holy Spirit who made Peter realise this and say what he did. In other words, this is yet another occasion where God affirms that Jesus is His Son. Remember, it also happened in Christ’s baptism when a voice was heard to say “This is my Son.”
You ask whether God reveals Himself to us and about Free Will.
Yes, God does reveal Himself today to many people in various ways. Through miracles, through the Holy Spirit and through various supernatural events.
This does not mean that He loves other people less (those to whom He is not revealed); or that they are not worthy of His love. He loves everyone equally and invites everyone to love Him back; and He desires that everyone will one day be with Him in Heaven.
In loving everyone equally, He also loves everyone differently; each according to their needs. This is the same as a parent with children would love them all equally but differently. For instance if a child is disabled, he would not be loved any more or less than the others, but differently. If a child is very clever and another one less so; they would both be loved equally but differently.
Regarding Free Will, God could well have created a race of robots all pre-programmed to do His will. But in His love and generosity for us He gave us the luxury to choose: to love Him or not, to follow Him or not. He loves us; but does not co-erce us in any way to return that love. That’s our Free Will.
Your failing to understand this, or other Scriptures, in no way diminishes His love for you. He knows where you are in your walk with Him and He loves you just as He loves everyone else; but differently. According to your needs.
I hope this helps a little.
God bless you and yours.
Thank you Victor. I Love what you say here about the Father Loving us each differently just as a parent Loves children with different needs (sometimes on a day to day or minute to minute basis!) differently. You are completely right in that and so right in saying that God reveals Himself throughout the Holy Spirit. Ten years ago, I’d have told you I believed in the Holy Spirit, but I’d have had no idea what that really meant or who He was/is/will be. I do believe God has revealed to me the Power of the Holy Spirit when He picked me up off the floor the night I threw my Crosses across the backyard, a night I will never forget.
I know many other women and families fall apart in our situation (I’ve heard from and spoken to many of them myself). I know I chose to Believe that night when I could have gone either way, but I also Believe God took me there, revealed Himself, and took me out. Does everyone have this happen? Do they just sweep past it like a sign on the freeway?
I guess what I am still confused about is does He do this for everyone, but some just deny Him flat out or do some not even hear His call because they are drowned out by family history or repeated patterns of abuse or cycles of unimaginable poverty. What happens to those who never heard of the God that we know or who have heard distorted versions of Him? How is Jesus revealed to them? How is it that they can use their free will to follow someone they know nothing Real about?
I am thinking a bit of the single mothers, children from broken homes, and those suffering from abuse, but I am also thinking of the news which takes so much of my thought lately – the Iraqi Christians and those in other areas and ISIS, Boka Haram, Hamas… I’ve seen the photos and my heart literally hurts for those people, but I also wonder about those inflicting such evil. Have they heard the Word of God? Have they learned what the Bible really says? Have they chosen to deny Him or are they just victims of being placed in a bad home? As terrifying as what they are doing to our brothers and sisters is, the suffering of Christians is temporary. The suffering of souls in Hell will be forever, eternal, and far beyond what they can do here on earth. What happens to them if they haven’t ever heard the True word of God so they haven’t had the opportunity to use their free will to choose or dismiss the Lord?
Melanie said it best when she said, “it is impossible to box him in.” Does this mean that my limited understand of God’s revelation comes from how God revealed himself to me but limits God’s ability to reveal Himself to others in say a rainbow or a waterfall or the morning dew (Sounding like a much older hippie version of my parents!) Is it that I can only picture God revealing Himself one way, but could He reveal Himself in other ways to others and in doing so He gives them the free will to embrace or deny?
I hope this makes sense. It’s very late, and my heart is hurting over the suffering of so many. Thank you SO much for taking the time to comment like this. I truly appreciate it.
Wow This is LONG – Sorry!
It is right and natural for you to ask all these questions. We are humans and we’ve been created with the ability to question and analyse – Free Will again!
But this doesn’t mean that we’ll have all the answers. This is because we try to understand God from a human perspective; our perspective. But He is God, and we are not. So no matter how much we try we’ll never understand Him.
God does not ask us to understand Him. Only to love Him and trust Him to do the right thing.
He may reveal Himself to some through the Holy Spirit, and to others not at all. I’m sure that there are people somewhere on earth who have never heard of God or Jesus. God knows about them and He will deal with them in His own loving, caring, Fatherly way. His mercy will not condemn someone to eternal hell just because he has never heard of God.
No one goes to hell by mistake. God does not send us to hell. It is we, in the full knowledge of God’s existance, who choose to defy Him and set ourselves against Him; and that’s what sends us to hell. Our actions in the full knowledge of what we are doing.
Adam and Eve’s sin was not one of greed and curiosity about what the fruit tasted like. It was in the full knowledge of God’s existance they wanted to be like God. They defied his Divinity just like Satan did when he was cast out of Heaven.
God created the Stars in the Sky and the morning dew on the grass. He created birds with hollow bones to fly and Babies with bones of the skull developed just the right way for the miracle of birth. Did I really think He wouldn’t have thought of those who had never heard of Him??? I hope not!
Oh Victor! Thank you. This is the answer I was looking for. I am sure God has a plan for those people, and you are right! It is a hard concept, but it is not for me to worry about. God is a just and merciful Being, and He doesn’t owe me a revelation of His every plan any more than I owe my children a revelation of every plan I have. I am SUCH a slow learner sometimes! I can’t deny that I still wish I knew (“Empty me of me so I can be more of You, Lord”), but I am okay with not knowing (and feeling a bit foolish for asking! 🙂 )
Thank you all so much for responding.
well put Victor
I do know that there is power in intercession. It seems that God sometimes chooses to use another human being as a connection between heaven and earth- a sort of landing strip, a radio tower, an open window so that the Holy Spirit can pierce through to others on the physical plane. Other times He can zap somebody in the middle of committing a crime, practically slaying them in the Spirit when it seems that they are the farthest from God. It sounds like a cop out, but really we are like ants next to God…it is impossible to box Him in or really grasp eternal mysteries…Sometimes we just have to trust in the darkness – I have found that my most painful failures have worked for the good of myt soul, leading me to freedom and joy
Thank you Melanie. You are so right. God has an amazing ability to give us everything or give us nothing and let us find the everything in what is left, which is often really the only thing that matters anyway. I couldn’t agree more that it is in my most painful failings that my soul has grown the most, and it is because of them that I have found a peace I still find incredible.
I will be posting on my blog,in response to this question. I too, have had so much difficulty in my marriage and I have had my eyes opened by the gift of the Holy Spirit during my walk with cancer and periods of intense dark nights of the soul. God opened my eyes to see through the pain what I could not see on my own. Being open to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to move you, opens the door to God’s message. Often letting go of our pain, by placing it in God’s hand or any difficult situation for that matter. By giving it completely to God we are saying: This pain, this wound is all yours for only you can understand it, only you can cure me and then adding a short little prayer. Something I say often: “Jesus do for me what I cannot do, repair all I have done badly, supply for my needs and my family.” This is one powerful prayer because you are giving it ALL to Jesus. In this is surrender, in surrender, you see and come to know Jesus personally, in surrender you began to loose your need to control every situation. Trust me I still am thinking I can do this all by myself. Bam, pride sneaks in and the devil is the master of pride and deception. I will speak more of this in my blog. God Bless, your sister in Christ, tami
Tami, Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I will definitely look for insight on your blog, http://schuelketami.com I am constantly amazed at how many struggle with marriage and what the reality of commitment and choosing Love every day, day in and day out, despite our treatment…difficult to say, impossible to live 100% of the time – at least for me anyway. My thoughts and prayers go out to you for suffering in such a physical and emotional way, and I thank God you have the strength of the Holy Spirit to sustain you. The Spirit has a strength I never would have understood before, and is impossible to describe. I guess maybe that’s part of this. We might have bad experiences, but we can choose to see God or not in them, to accept submission to Him or to not, but you’re right…is this again my pride in thinking I can control whether I accept Him or not? I can’t wait to read your deeper understanding of this. Thanks so much! You are in my prayers. God Bless You. xoxo
Are you okay with me blogging a comment on my blog and linking it back to your post. I should have asked you that sooner. I understand if you say no. God Bless, Tami
By all means, go ahead Tami! I would be honored. Thank you and thank you for asking too. xoxo
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