From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and legal experts, and that he had to be killed and raised on the third day. Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But he turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts” (Matthew 16:21-23, Common English Bible).
It was just a few days ago that we saw Jesus seemingly call a woman a dog (Matthew 15:21-28). It might seem, when we read the lesson for today as a surface reading, that Jesus is at it again, this time calling Peter, Satan. Yeah, the way I see it, if Jesus is actually name calling, Peter is getting a lousy shake compared to the Canaanite woman.
More than 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to see “The Promise,” a Passion Play type performance in Glen Rose Texas. The play tells the story of Jesus’ life. I loved the way they portrayed this story. Jesus was looking in Peter’s direction, but seeing past him and speaking to another character in the play, Satan.
I love that idea. As I have thought on this passage, I can’t help but think that Jesus was not calling Peter Satan. That being said, whenever there are things that fall short of the glory of God, there is a pretty good chance that evil is hanging out in the neighborhood. And, to carry it a step further, if we are who is performing the evil, there is a real good chance that evil is hanging out in us.
I don’t think Jesus was calling Peter evil, he was calling Peter’s idea evil. Peter was trying to keep Jesus from fulfilling His destiny because it wasn’t the thing Peter wanted to happen to his friend.
Isn’t it interesting that in the passage we just finished yesterday Peter knows Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, but Peter doesn’t realize what being Messiah actually means.
When we read this passage, we often give Peter a hard time. We might even say, indigently, Peter is evil because of what he says. He, after all, is trying to prevent Jesus from living out his call. If we are honest with ourselves, we would probably be right there with Peter, we wouldn’t want Jesus to die such a horrible death either. After all, we would never want something so horrible to happen to someone we love.
Sometimes I think I might hear Jesus say, at least in my direction, “Get behind me Satan!” It’s something I don’t think is aimed at me. Instead, I think it just might be the evil that all too often is inside me.
How do you hear Jesus saying, “Get behind me Satan?”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved