Everything about this story seems strange. First Peter rebukes Jesus, and then Jesus rebukes Peter. This is some of the harshest language Jesus ever used. Though he used more colorful language when he excoriated the Pharisees (Matthew 23), he never called them “Satan.” For that matter, even though the Bible says that Satan entered Judas (John 13:27), Jesus never called him “Satan.”
Peter remains the only person Jesus ever called “Satan.”
The timing makes this whole story even more peculiar. In the preceding verses Peter has just uttered a magnificent statement of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). Jesus responded with high praise of his own:
–You didn’t learn this from man but from God (v. 17).
–Upon this rock I will build my church (v. 18)
–I give you the keys of the kingdom (vv. 19-20).
From that high point Jesus begins to unveil the future to them (v. 21):
–He must suffer many things at the hands of the Jewish leaders.
–He must be killed.
–He must be raised on the third day.
Our problem stems mostly from the fact that all of this is old news to us. If you have been a Christian for any period of time, you know the story of Good Friday and Easter. And even if you aren’t a Christian, you probably know the general outline. So no matter how we read this story, it’s not “new news” to us. We’ve heard it all before. And therein lies the problem. The disciples were hearing this for the very first time. And the thought of their Master being killed in Jerusalem simply staggered them. They had no categories for it. No way to think about it.
He told them the bad news and they couldn’t handle it.
Evidently they didn’t even hear the part about rising from the dead.
They had no category for that either.
In Mark’s parallel account (Mark 8:31-33), he adds that Jesus spoke “plainly” about the future, meaning he didn’t pull any punches, didn’t sugarcoat it, didn’t say, “Well, there might be a little trouble in Jerusalem.” Nothing like that
None of it made sense. So Peter did what we generally do when we think someone we love is talking “crazy talk.” He pulled Jesus aside so he could set him straight.
“Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Twice he told Jesus “never.”
It’s as if he thinks Jesus has momentarily lost his mind. I think he means, “Lord, don’t worry about it. There are twelve of us. We’ll keep you safe. They’ll have to go through us to get to you.”
But you can’t get around it. He “rebuked” the Son of God. This is not a good move for an aspiring disciple of Christ.
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About Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, in Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 27 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 37 years, have three sons-Josh, Mark and Nick, two daughters-in-law--Leah and Vanessa, and two grandsons--Knox and Eli. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.
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