But he turned, and said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art and offence to me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Matthew 16:23
“Hey, Jesus! Cut him some slack.” Peter understands. He gets it–Jesus IS the Messiah, and more. He is born of God, the Son of God. Jesus has been calling himself the “Son of man”, but that’s just to identify himself with other men. Peter has discovered that a man or woman must see beyond his manhood, to fully know Jesus.
When Peter confessed his understanding and proclaimed this truth, Jesus blessed him. “Peter you have stopped looking with your eyes. You have stopped operating out of the motivation of your soul. You have listened to the voice of God. You are seeing with spiritual eyes, and are being motivated by the Holy Spirit.”
Then He further honored Peter. Jesus stated that the revelation Peter proclaimed, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!”, will be the foundation of Christ’s Church. All who confess this, all who submit to Jesus as God will be members of Christ’s church. Without this proclamation, there is no foundation and no Church.
Jesus bestowed two gifts on the Disciples. He gave them entry into heaven and the method to allow others to enter.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)
Then, Jesus gave them and all disciples authority on earth and in heaven.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19)
The holder of keys has the right to lock and unlock doors. He has the authority to allow or disallow entry. Jesus has entrusted that high honor to the Disciples and to all disciples who follow.
Next, the Messiah offered something even more precious. He shared with them His mind and the intention of Almighty God. Jesus began to reveal to the Disciples the mystery, the hidden truth, that Jesus must die for the Sin of mankind; that He will be in the grave for three days; and that God will raise Him up (v. 21).
Peter was stunned! Here he was basking in the glow of Jesus blessing and praise. Likely, Peter was only half listening as Jesus continued speaking. Maybe he was caught up in a vision of Christ’s Church. Maybe Peter saw himself, as one of Christ’s inner circle, bestowing grace upon thousands. Perhaps his heart was overflowing with love for this wonderful, special Man.
Suddenly he returned to the present. “What did he Say!? He’s going to be murdered – And by the chief priests!? That can’t be! He just said He’s going to found a new Church. The chief priests had been grumbling against Jesus, but murder Him? NEVER! Not on my watch!” Jesus wasn’t making sense.
Peter was yanked from the glow of a mountain top experience and plunged into the valley of the shadow of death. Peter’s extravagant love for Jesus, his absolute loyalty to the mission as Peter saw it, made him forget his position. He was a disciple at the feet of the Teacher. His heart overcame his head. Peter’s protective impulse, while noble in the abstract was inappropriate due to his ignorance. Peter leapt out to shield his Master from folly. Where immediately before, Peter had responded to the Holy Spirit; now he was controlled by fleshly emotions. Peter would die before he allowed anyone to harm Jesus – even Jesus Himself!
Blind to everything, but his fear of the danger Jesus was intentionally walking into, Peter rebuked Jesus, “Don’t be a fool! If the priests will endanger you, don’t go to Jerusalem. Have you lost your mind! I won’t let you! I’ll save You from Yourself”
Just when Peter thought there could be nothing lower than this valley he had plunged into, His beloved Master turned on him. “Get thee behind me, Satan!” “He called me Satan!” Peter must have been crushed. Here he was, just trying to save Jesus, and Jesus calls Peter a tool of the devil. Confused, humiliated, dejected, Peter felt lower than a whale’s belly, scratching on the seabed.
Jesus said Peter was hindering Him, obstructing His mission, interfering with Jesus plans, undermining his purpose. Jesus was saying, “You are living limited and unthinking, controlled by your emotions. Whereas just before you were listening to the voice of God, now your emotions have blinded you to the mind of God. Now you are allowing your emotions to crowd Him out.”
You see, Peter couldn’t yet get beyond death as finality. His emotions, while noble – love for Jesus and desire to protect Him – and ignoble – fear of death, fear of the loss of a dream – overcame his understanding that Jesus is God! Peter lost track of the fact that God knows everything, that He can raise the dead (He’d seen it several times), and that Jesus is not limited to man’s resources.
Truth be told, we are much like Peter. You and I, too often, operate in the realm of emotions, rather then the realm of the Holy Spirit. If a loved one or a dear friend becomes gravely ill, so that we fear for his life, we become desperate. The movie, John Q, explores this. The hero’s child needed an immediate organ transplant to save his life. Insurance wouldn’t pay for it. John Q and his family didn’t have the resources to pay for it. In desperation, his wife railed at him to do something. So, our hero took hostages and threatened the lives of many people to force the hospital to perform the transplant for his child. He is shown to be operating out of the best of motives–love for his child and willingness to make any personal sacrifice, even prison, to save his child.
Isn’t this is noble? Can’t we all identify this as moral high ground? The end of saving this child’s life justifies John Q’s desperate and life-threatening behavior.
Or does it?
Let’s speculate on God’s view of this situation. He is left out of the movie in any real way, but in real situations He is always here. God is well aware of the suffering that sickness and death puts people through. He suffers, too. He knows the heartbreak of losing a child to death. God experienced both sides of it–as Himself and as the Son. We are not dealing with an esoteric, unfeeling God. In the Gospels, we see that Jesus hates death. The Rev. Canon Dennis Bennett said, “Jesus broke up every funeral He attended.” When He arrived at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus’ spirit was deeply grieved. He groaned under the burden of mourning. He wept (John 11:33-35) in sorrow along with Mary and Martha and the Jews. Even though Jesus knew He would be raising Lazarus from the dead, He wept. He hates death. That’s why God took on death nose to nose, toe to toe–and defeated it!!
Jesus’ victory has transformed death from an irretrievable dead end to but a threshold to enlarged life. We can’t conceive of all that means. Perhaps, that is why the Bible gives such a sketchy view of life beyond the grave. Jesus knows that death, even in the most dire and hopeless and despairing situations, is not certain. God has the power to intervene. God can deliver from the jaws of death; He can stay the progress of disease; He can even turn death to life. If you and I will look to Him with our whole hearts, He will replace fear with trust, grief with joy – in the midst of loss.
Thus, to John Q, to Peter, and to us, God says, “Trust in me, follow me, submit to me, and your life will be full. Trust me to bring your circumstances out of the valley into the light. Follow me through the darkness of confusion and sorrow and I will lead you into assurance of life everlasting. Submit to my command to love me and love others. Don’t limit your life to your own understanding. You will be given the victory over dire situations. I will uphold you by my Almighty Hand. And I will fill you with abundant joy.”
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27)
Peter’s emotions conquered his trust in Jesus, conquered his obedience to his Master, and conquered his will to follow Jesus anywhere Jesus would lead. As a result, Peter became the tool of Satan. Peter had not grown enough in the spirit to require his emotions to submit. The Disciple tempted the Master to turn aside from the God-ordained path.
Do you identify with John Q? Do you feel he was justified in the extreme measures he took to save his child?
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 11:17)
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me: the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. (2 Samuel 22:2-7)
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
When you feel you are walking in Peter’s footsteps,
That’s the flesh talking, and it’s precisely the time to tune your spiritual ears to the Savior. Embrace and learn from His rebuke, “You are an offense to me, because you are clinging to the habits of men and forsaking your inheritance with God; an inheritance I bought for you with my blood!
Recognize your emotions for what they are. Recognize that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Face your emotions. Don’t hide from them or deny them. Just don’t allow them to dominate your spirit and dictate your actions.
You are a princess of the Almighty King.
You are a prince of the Lord God.
Do not be led astray by emotion. Instead, lead your emotions into the light of Christ and let the Refiner’s Fire purify them.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:25-26)
I hear you thinking, “Easy for you to say.” On the contrary, no change in life habit comes easily. They are hardly won. Change begins with a step.
Because change is hard and dangerous, most choose to sit by the fire. That causes us to turn our backs on the offerings of Christ. It leads to ignoring the call of the Holy Spirit. It results in rebellion against God.
Begin fresh each day, and if necessary, each minute. The more we actively seek to live in the victory of Christ, the more we have the mind of Christ. The more we have the mind of Christ, the less we will be subject to the domination of the flesh. The less we are subject to the domination of the flesh, the freer we are in the spirit and the more the joy of the Lord will permeate our lives.
For Christ is the Victory!