“And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him…” (Matthew 16:22)
Jesus has always been on mission. From the earliest age recorded in the Gospels (age 12) Jesus was already aware of the purpose for His coming, and He was about His Father’s business (Lk. 2:41-52 NKJV). We don’t know how early He was aware of this or how the incarnation really works specifically in this regard, but what we do know that Jesus was never confused about why He came. He and the Father are one, and so are their purposes. Even further, Jesus’ oneness with the Father enabled Him to operate with right understanding.
Jesus lived His earthly life and executed His earthly mission to perfection because He operated through the wisdom of the kingdom. In other words, His mind was not set on the things of man but only on the things of God. He and the Father were completely and uninhibitedly one.
We humans, many times, don’t see like He saw. We are easily perplexed and confused, led astray, and fragile in mind and heart. Many times, despite our best intentions, we fail to see and hear properly, and we are in need of the Good Shepherd to lead us on the straight and narrow. We need Him to have eyes that are untainted and ears that are clear. We need Him to stand at all, and we need Him to understand Him. We need the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom of the kingdom.
Matthew 16 is an interesting chapter within the Gospels. It seems that all in one walk with Jesus Peter experiences that ultimate high and the ultimate low. He goes from being one blessed by the Father (which has significant connotations for the Jew) to being connected to the diametrically opposed mission of satan. It really shows how quickly we can veer off the path if we’re not listening to and following the Master.
After Peter makes the great confession (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of Living God – Matt. 16:16), Jesus begins to speak to the disciples of His coming demise at the hands of the Jewish leaders. Peter, as the compulsive individual he is, quickly takes Jesus aside, rebukes Him, telling Him, “Far be it from you, Lord. This shall never happen to you.”
Before we get to Jesus’ response, we must understand Peter’s rebuke to the one he just called God’s Son. It seems strange that Peter would rebuke the Son of God, doesn’t it? After all, if Jesus was truly God’s Son, and if Peter truly believed that, wouldn’t Peter trust that what He says regarding His coming death, or anything at all, would be a trustworthy saying? But, Peter truly did believe Jesus was God’s Son, and we know this because Jesus affirms it Himself. So what would make Peter rebuke Jesus in this fashion?
There could be different motives that we could assume here with Peter, but what we do know is that the Jewish expectation of the coming Messiah was that He would liberate the Jewish people from Gentile rule and re-establish the Davidic kingdom on earth. The Jews fully expected their coming Messiah to come as a conquering King, to be the Lion of Judah, which is something the disciples even still expected after Jesus was glorified (Acts 1:6). Therefore, Jesus saying that He would be killed, and by the Jewish religious leaders nonetheless (the supposed religious experts), would be something incredibly asinine to the Jew. It would be completely inconceivable.
Peter, who could not comprehend his conquering Messiah dying, and with good intentions and in complete ignorance, attempted to dissuade the Savior from His mission. He was attempting what satan has been attempting from the time Jesus was conceived, which was to stop God’s mission – the cross. And why? Because Peter’s mind, as Jesus mentions, was set on the things of man, not on the things of God. He was viewing the Messiah through the wrong lens and, as a result, ended up becoming a hindrance (a stumbling block or temptation to sin) to Him.
No one will ever know God when looking through man’s lens. The mind set on flesh is hostile to God and cannot submit to Him or please Him (Rom. 8:7-8); only the Spirit of God understands the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11). Therefore, the individual who is without the Spirit cannot understand God, His mission, or His ways (1 Cor. 2:14) because the wisdom of God is foolishness to unbelievers, whose eyes are closed (1 Cor. 1:18-31). We need the Spirit to see as Jesus saw, and when this happens we will begin to face the same opposition that Jesus did.
Jesus, immediately after His confrontation with Peter, tells the disciples that they must take up their cross if they want to follow Him (a scandalous command for any first century individual in the Roman Empire) and questions the value of gaining the world but losing your soul. Jesus was showing them the wisdom of the kingdom, that with God up is down. God’s way isn’t our way; His thoughts are not our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9), and only He can give us this understanding, by His Spirit, so that we, and others, can see (1 Cor. 2:14).
When God gives us sight so that we can truly understand, there will be times when He will call us to do things that are completely insane to the natural man: ‘What, you’re leaving your comfortable life to go on the mission field?’; ‘Huh, you’re not watching this or doing that?’; ‘What do you mean God has told you to sell everything and go here or there? That doesn’t make any sense.’; Or, ‘You must being do something wrong if you’re going through all that suffering. If God was in it you would be blessed.’ And then they will begin their rebuke, just like Peter.
In contemporary times, before we even get to things like that, it seems that the insane is considered, by Christians no less, anything remotely close to simply believing the Scriptures and obeying them. The road of holiness is a lonely road. It could cost you everything. That is why Jesus advised us to count the cost (Luke 14:25-28) because those who would follow Him must take up their cross, in death, like Him. In order to have the ultimate gain, we must consider all things loss, and, even further, consider them acceptable losses. They must become utter rubbish to us in comparison to the glorious Christ, His glorious cross, and His glorious road (Phil. 3:7-8).
For those who, by God’s grace, have had their eyes, ears, and heart opened and are now facing these realities, this entry is for you. I write this to encourage all those who desire to be fully on mission to take up your cross. Don’t let the dissuasion of ignorant people, no matter how highly regarded they are (like Peter), keep you from what God is calling you to do; whether in holiness, in ministry, or in anything that you know would get the rebuke of the Peter’s around you. Don’t be discouraged by those who are blinded by the wisdom of men. Get on mission; stay on mission; Follow Christ, even unto death.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”