“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” – Matthew 16:16
We must recognize who Jesus is in order to fully appreciate the message of the Gospel and the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter’s confession of faith recorded in three Gospels (Matt. 16:13-19; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20) is revolutionary as well as revealing. “This is the One we have been waiting for!” “This is God in the flesh!” “This is the One who has come to fulfill all prophesy, rescue His people, and rock this world to the core!” Once Peter correctly identified Jesus and made this confession, Jesus began to reveal His purpose more clearly to the disciples. It seems that Jesus invites those who “confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9) into a deeper understanding. It is after this that Jesus speaks plainly about the mission of the Messiah…His death and resurrection.
“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But, turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'” – Mark 8:31-33
Peter learns quickly that his understanding of the Messiah…the Christ, is not exactly what he was expecting. We are reminded that identifying Jesus does not mean that we understand everything about Him. It is just the first step to a deeper journey in a relationship with Him as our Lord and Savior. Unfortunately, as a result of our misunderstanding, when Jesus begins to say things we do not like, or go places that we do not want to go, or does things that we do not want to do…we, like Peter, pull Jesus aside for a little “helpful advice”.
So, Jesus responds with what seems to be a harsh rebuke of the very disciple who made the wonderful confession only moments before. Does Jesus actually call Peter Satan? To answer this question we must remember that it was Satan’s purpose from the beginning to keep Jesus from the cross! Peter’s words expressing concern for his Lord’s safety were being used by Satan as another attempt to derail the resolve of the Savior. Jesus was calling out the tempter who was firing arrows while hiding behind a beloved disciple. This had to be an uncomfortable moment for Peter but, he also must have realized that there were bigger things going on that he did not understand.
As we walk on this journey to the cross over the next 40 days, let’s remember that there may be moments that make us uncomfortable. We may want to fast forward to the empty tomb and the good news of a resurrection…but, we must keep our minds on the “things of God” and realize that on the road to the cross our Lord had to suffer “many things” and die for our sake.