Thursday, September 22, 2011

One step forward, two steps back

"get thee behind Me!"
Matthew 16:23

Peter was a disciple of great contradiction.  He was capable of both deep insight, and shallow self-involvement, and in that way I suppose most of us are like him.  I myself can gossip and judge with the best of 'em.  I'm also self-centered about 90% of the time.  Maybe more.  But often there are other people in my dreams; does that count as thinking of others?   :)

This verse today represents one of Peter's lowest points.  You could argue that Peter's denial of Jesus was his lowest point, and you might be right, but I'd counter-argue {is that redundant?} that it doesn't get any lower than Jesus calling him "satan". 

Although really, Jesus didn't actually call Peter "satan".  Jesus was just recognizing that Peter's words were inspired by satan.  And what were these words that provoked Jesus' response?  Peter had protested the idea of Jesus' death.  

Verse 21 says, "Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things... and be killed, and be raised the third day."  And then Peter spoke, and not only did he speak, he had the chutzpah to actually rebuke Jesus:  "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"

Now, it's a fairly good bet that if you're contradicting the Lord at all, you're in the wrong.  But if you are going to contradict Him on the whole reason He came to earth, well then you're.... well, you're speaking satan's point of view; that's all there is to it.  

And that's why Jesus turned the rebuke back on Peter, and on satan's ideas in Peter's head.  "Get thee behind Me, satan!  You are not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of man!"  Harsh, but appropriate.  

Now here's the warning for us:  this low point in Peter's discipleship came right after a very high point.  Just a few verses before this exchange, Jesus and Peter had shared another one.  In that conversation, Jesus had asked Peter, "who do you say that I am?"  Peter had correctly answered, "You are the Christ; the Son of the Living God," and Jesus praised him:  "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah... for this has been revealed to you by My Father in heaven."  Jesus was not only telling Peter that he had the right answer, but praising him for having a teachable spirit; for internalizing the truth that the Holy Spirit had brought to his heart.  

I wonder if maybe this praise, this recognition, had Peter a little cocky.  He'd gotten that one right, and then spoke in his arrogance, protesting that Jesus would certainly not be killed.  But that opinion was certainly not revealed to him by God in heaven.  I wonder if I'm in this danger, too.  That soon after I've understood some meaningful truth, I'm in danger of attributing that learning to my wisdom, not His gift of revelation to me, and then to proceed in my wisdom.  {Or what I think is wisdom.}

I think one of the best things we can be, is teachable.  But that doesn't do us much good unless God is the teacher.  And no matter what wisdom He imparts to us, we're only a few words away from reverting to foolishness.

~ "Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed,
 lest he fall" ~
1 Corinthians 10:12


  1. Great point, comparing the context of Peter's two comments. I imagine that arrogance is a danger for many of us, because we try to convince ourselves that it's something other than arrogance, something justifiable somehow.

    Speaking from personal experience here.

  2. Yes, I have always believed pride to be the most dangerous sin, because it leads to other sins; but you're right, I think its danger lies also in the fact that we justify it to ourselves. Good point; thanks!