I can’t get over the fact that Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Get behind me, satan.”
This isn’t a G-rated story that one could nicely fit into a Children’s Storybook Bible. No, this is one of those more in line with the tough stuff of Scripture – those stories that we’d perhaps rather omit from Scripture due to their offensive language and exclusive claims.
To be a good student of the Bible, however, we must wrestle with these stories. We must trust God’s Spirit who inspired these words, to help us with stories such as this.
In Matthew 16:16, Peter gets an A+ for his correct answer as to who Jesus is when he exclaims, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus, gushing with joy, pipes back at him, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
Now if the story ended there, it’d be quite a nice, tidy story, fairytale ending and all, but as Paul Harvey quipped, “Now, the rest of the story.”
This, you see, is where things get testy, where Jesus shows his, “I’m not kiddin’ around” side.
Fast forward to Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus informs his disciples that he will go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, and be raised. Now, if we place ourselves in the midst of this story, we would struggle with Jesus’ words as well. It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback and berate the disciples for their response, but let us not forget that to see the failures of the disciples is to look in a mirror and oftentimes see our failings as well.
Peter, the rock, takes Jesus aside and scolds him with these words, “This shall never happen to you!”
It’s at this point, Peter, formerly Simon Peter, is referred to as “Satan”. Oh the name of Peter!
But, why? What’s the big deal? Why is Jesus name calling? With an exclamation point!
A few things to consider…
First, Peter’s perspective of Jesus was wrong. Notice that Jesus said, “Get behind me.” A disciple was always to follow his or her master. In this case, Peter is trying to take the lead. Peter is trying to be the master. Peter is trying to teach Jesus how things should be done.
Second, Peter wanted a Kingdom without a cross. This is the same offer Satan gave Jesus back in Matthew 4:9 when he offered Jesus a kingdom. This, however, was a kingdom without a cross. A kingdom without a cross is a world without forgiveness and hope. It’s a false narrative, a failure at reconciliation. Jesus came to go to a cross, which meant suffering. On this side of glory suffering will be part of the Kingdom in her birth pains.
Thirdly, Peter was concerned with human stuff rather than the stuff of God. This certainly sounds familiar to me. Living my day, being about my business, doing what I want to do, neglecting the stuff of God. Jesus was going to a cross to be about the stuff of God; reconciliation, forgiveness, salvation. It’s these very things we should be about.
Finally, it’s very possible to hang out with Jesus and act like Satan. At this point Peter had spent considerable time with Jesus, yet still had the habits of the flesh and walked in the ways of the adversary.
That’s it for today, until next time, let’s chew on this story, it’s a tough one. I wonder if we ever act like Peter, thus acting like you-know-who…