There comes a time for some believers, when enough is enough. For them, the spiritual battle of life becomes overwhelming. While there are many reasons for this exasperation, I wish to consider just one today.
As I read the New Testament, I relate well with the apostle Peter. Peter seemed to learn best through painfully extreme events in life, such as the one recorded in Matthew chapter 16. Matthew tells of Peter receiving a crushing blow, and what’s more, Peter took it from Jesus. The events unfolded only days before the Lord’s betrayal and crucifixion.
Jesus had begun ’to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised’ (Matthew 16:21). Now, this would have been difficult for the disciples to understand. They had lived and served with Jesus for three years. There expectation was for Him to liberate Israel from Roman rule. This deflating news of losing Jesus to crucifixion was incomprehensible. Let alone the idea of Jesus rising to life again on the third day would have sounded absurd.
So; ‘Peter took him (Jesus) aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you”’ (Matthew 16:22). It’s difficult to determine Peter’s attitude here; was he being obstinate or was he simply naive and forgetting who he was speaking to. After all, Peter had seen and heard more than enough evidence of Jesus deity. Yet, he dared to give Jesus a telling off. Bold or stupid, I’m not sure, but Peter was at least brave. Correcting God face to face. Not a good idea Peter!
Jesus being God, and knowing everything, including Peter’s heart; ‘turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”’ (Matthew 16:23). Poor Peter, he would not have seen that coming. Peter probably thought that he was simply shooting his mouth off, but Jesus recognised that which Peter could not see within himself. Jesus spoke of Satan’s influence within Peter’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings and attitudes toward Jesus.
Jesus cut to the core issue; Peter was obstructing Jesus’ work by imposing fleshing thinking upon God’s Son and His predetermined death and resurrection. Peter was totally on the wrong page and Jesus informed him so. Peter would have thought of himself as sincere, as outspoken with concern; but Jesus corrected every spec of Peter’s human error in one sentence. How easy it is to have sincerely shallow, self-centred thinking which is vulnerable to Satan’s influence.
Now, here’s the wonder of Jesus grace which surpasses our human reasoning. Six days later “Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2). Included in the trio of witnesses for Jesus peeling back His humanity to reveal His divinity, was Peter. Less than a week earlier Peter was in disgrace, yet Jesus included Peter. Only these three men, plus the apostle Paul (Ac 9:3-5), have seen Jesus in His divinely natural state of glorification. What an undeserved privilege was theirs.
Next week we shall continue towards learning, as Peter did; “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (Ephesians 1:19). But for today, remember the grace which allows us, like Peter, to know Jesus Christ as Lord.