Part 1: Absolutely Right, Totally Wrong

He was right! He was absolutely right! He knew he was right. Prophecy said he was right. History said he was right. Reality said he was right. He had to be right. He had staked everything he had, everything he was, and everything he hoped to be on the fact that he was right.

He had walked away from his business to take the greatest gamble of his life because he was right. He had spent weeks away from his family because he was right. He had given up all he ever knew of comfort and security to spend long arduous hours in strange places, sometimes honored, sometimes rejected, but always right.

Peter knew he was right—absolutely right, and that meant Jesus was wrong, totally wrong. That's why he stepped forward and took Jesus aside on that fateful day outside Caesarea Philippi in northern Israel. Perhaps he took Jesus by the hand or the arm and led him aside; perhaps he put his arm around His shoulder and separated him from the disciples. Either way, he took Jesus aside and rebuked Him (Mark 8:32). Why? Because he was absolutely right and Jesus was totally wrong. But it wasn't that way. Peter was totally wrong and Jesus was absolutely right.

It all began when Jesus said words that made no sense to Peter: "The Son of Man must suffer . . ." (Mark 8:31). Prophecy said the Son of Man would rule forever (Dan. 7:14); history said that God was on the side of those who looked for the rule of Messiah; reality said Peter was absolutely right. Hadn't he identified Jesus as the Christ? Hadn't Jesus commended him for thisinsight? His insight was not of his own doing, but from the Father who is in heaven (Mt. 16:17). Peter had to be absolutely right, but he was totally wrong. The Son had to suffer before He could reign. Peter, blinded by the glory of kingdom fever missed the truth of Isaiah 53, even as we who lead often miss the meaning of those Isaiah 53 moments in our lives and fail to realize how like Peter we are.

Think of those amazing words Jesus said to Peter. "Get behind me, Satan . . ." Stunning. Get out of my sight—you are Satan to me. Like Satan you would tempt me to turn from the cross, to gain the crown without the cross, which is exactly what we as leaders often want. Like Peter, we are amazed to discover that we think like Satan and want comfort, power, and control without the self-denial and sacrifice the cross demands.

Jesus gives us an analysis of our thinking in His next words to Peter. " . . . you do not set your mind on the interests of God but on the interests of man (Mk. 8:33)." What are the interests of man for leaders? They are always the same: power, success, and control. And what are the interests of God? They are also always the same: love, sacrifice, and service. Peter, one of Jesus' most significant leaders in training, thought like Satan because he pursued the interests of man and not the interests of God. That's what made him rebuke Jesus and that's what makes us angry with Jesus as well. Sometimes He seems to be against us, to stand in our way, to hinder us—and He is against us. Why? Because no matter what we say, we are not pursuing His interests but our interests.

How can we be delivered from the interests of man and set free to pursue the interests of God? Look at Jesus' answer: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me (Mark 8:34). This answer makes the cross absolutely essential for all leaders who want to lead God's way and pursue His interests rather than man's. The cross is a vital key to Christ's kind of leadership, so we cannot be His kind of leaders unless we take up the cross.

One of the biggest issues in Peter's life as in our lives as leaders was his expectations. Because he had recognized Jesus as Messiah and because he had given up all to follow Him, he had expectations of a kingdom, a throne, and a crown. Nowhere in his mind was there the remotest thought of a cross. His expectations were based on prophecy, history, and reality, and they motivated him to leave everything to follow Jesus and drove him to stay with Jesus even when he did not understand all He was doing. Peter had established knowledge that Jesus was going to overthrow Rome and exalt Israel in His kingdom, but when Jesus spoke of the cross he received new information that totally conflicted with his expectations.