“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” [Aslan, ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe]
There are two passages I want to look at here, both from Matthew 16:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’
What is possibly the most interesting part about this passage is the one that follows it. Peter has just demonstrated the ability to tune into the things of God and be directed towards the revelation of the Spirit. But then he returns to being Peter, the simple fisherman.
’21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” He said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and 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.”
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.’
I mean let’s not miss this here. He calls one of his best men ‘satan’ – it doesn’t get much worse than that. This is not a tame Jesus we are dealing with. The lion is out.
Although I do believe there is a subtle distinction to be made here, because I don’t think Jesus is actually calling Peter ‘the devil’ but He is addressing the nature of the devil that is coming through the statement that Peter makes. His follow-up statement seems to suggest that – ‘you have in mind the things of man and not of God.’ That message itself [actually the root of all human suffering if you dig deep enough] is so offensive to God that Jesus has to take issue on it. He rebukes Peter right there in front of his friends. None of this Matthew 18.15 stuff of quietly dealing with the person one on one. Peter makes a public statement that goes against the very will of God and so Jesus steps in forcefully and takes it down.
It is important to pick up the ‘He isn’t safe, but He’s good’ aspects of this story. Jesus is addressing the statement Peter is making and doing so strongly because it is important for the disciples to realise just what He is and isn’t about. But He remains friends with Peter and doesn’t turf him out because of this misstep. The increasingly unpopular ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ which I still find to be true.
I discovered this paragraph by Ken Matto on the passage which I really liked:
‘Peter was rebuked because he was looking at things from man’s point of view rather than from God’s point of view. This would be a very subtle satanic method and very innocuous. It showed Peter had a caring spirit but one that was misguided. Jesus rebuked Peter because his thoughts were in line with Satan’s thoughts which would be anti-God even if it was done violently. Much sin is committed under the guise of care when it is misguided. This is why we need to check things out in the Scriptures, no matter how caring a person is, if they are misleading us, then they must be rebuked and this is what Jesus did with Peter. He was not chiding him but trying to refocus his thinking back on the things of God. Jesus was always teaching and training His disciples, as He was here with Peter, so when Pentecost came and they were filled with the Spirit, the disciples would be ready to start evangelizing.’ [Ken Matto]
And so a great passage to start this series with as it demonstrated both the powerful and loving nature of Jesus, who, let’s not forget, is represented both as lion and lamb.