Get Behind Me, Satan
Peter gives hope to us all, I think. He is no perfect, plastic saint. He succeeds and he fails as he follows Jesus. So do I.
Immediately after Peter's glorious confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus begins to prepare His disciples for the Cross.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21 NIV)
Now that they understand that He is the Messiah, they have the foundation for seeing the Cross as the means of redemption it is. They just don't know it. Peter and the disciples cannot fathom how Jesus's death can be part of the plan. So Peter's reaction is visceral:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22 NIV)
And so Peter tells Jesus that he will oppose God's will for the redemption of humanity because he cannot see how Jesus's death can be part of it. Peter opposes the single thing Jesus came to earth to accomplish. Peter's glorious-king-of-Israel-who-will-throw-out-the-Romans-and-make-Israel-free-again template of who Messiah will be causes him to say to Jesus, essentially, "I won't let that happen."
Peter's heart is in the right place. But he is living by his own feelings and handcuffed by limited understanding of God's great plan of redemption. He is walking by the sight of his own understanding, rather than by faith in his Lord. So do I, sometimes.
Peter receives a stinging rebuke from Jesus:
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23 NIV)
Wait. Did Jesus just accuse Peter of being Satan? Well, at least in this, Peter was Satan-like. Here Peter is a stumbling block to Jesus. Here Peter has in mind his human love for Jesus and not God's redemption-by-sacrificial-love for humanity.
In humility, I think it is right for each of us to pray, "Lord, show me your will so I can do your will and not oppose your will." And the first place to look to find God's will is in His Word. That's important.
The first place most of us look to seek God's will is in our own hearts. After all, if we follow our heart we will come out just fine, right? Well, Peter was following his heart when Jesus rebuked him as being a Satanic stumbling block to Him. That's pretty sobering to me.
Jesus knows Peter's heart, and He knows mine. He knows our hearts are filled with all sorts of human concerns and ungodly things. And still He loves us. And still he offers us grace. That's why Peter represents such hope. A real, frail, sometimes knuckleheaded human being like Peter, and like me, can still follow Jesus and still be used by Him to rock the world.
My part is to remain faithful. My part is to bring sin, failure, and even misguided opposition to God's best to the Cross. My part is to repent and believe the Gospel. Christ died for the very weakness and failure and sin that too often marks my life. The old hymn is right: I need Thee, O I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee. O bless me, now, my Savior, I come to Thee.
Broken and misguided, I come to Jesus. Sinful and wounded, I come to Jesus. Committed and well-meaning and made righteous by grace through faith, I come to Jesus. Sometimes there is a rebuke because I am wrapped up in human concerns rather than Godly concerns. But always there is grace.
Thank you, Jesus. You rebuked Peter, but you didn't give up on him. And you don't give up on me.