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May 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Day Forty-five – Matthew 16:13-26

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23

What did Peter do after Jesus hit him with these harsh words? Did he hang his head in shame and slink away to some dark corner and hide himself? Was there a moment when he assumed he had failed at discipleship and Jesus did not want him tagging along with the rest of them? After all, Jesus called him Satan!

Can you imagine how you would react if Jesus called you Satan and said you were an offense to him?

Jesus obviously took very seriously Peter’s denial of his prediction that he would be rejected and executed. Do the Lord’s words border on abuse? Did he mean what he said literally? Why was he so upset at Peter’s inability to read the plan of God when it had been so well hidden? (see Luke 9:43-45)

The root of the problem was Peter’s inability to see Jesus’ future from God’s perspective. Instead, he stood squarely within a human mind-set, in which case the humiliation and death of the Messiah was nonsense (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:23). It is somewhat disappointing that for a moment Peter had set his mind on God’s interests and declared truths that “flesh and blood did not reveal” to him, but the “Father who is in heaven” (v. 17). But that brief light was extinguished and his thoughts fell back down to earth.

Jesus could not entrust the keys of his kingdom to someone whose thoughts were locked in the fearful, resistant, and self-interested concerns of human minds and culture. So he used some very strong language with Peter. Perhaps Peter needed this verbal slap to wake him up to the fact that he had slipped over to the enemy’s side.

The strong language that Jesus sometimes uses with us does not mean he has given up on us or that he is done with us. And the last thing he wants is for us to wallow in self-condemnation or give up. What Jesus had said to Satan during his temptation was, “Go away, Satan” (Mt. 3:10). With Peter he added a couple of words, “Go away behind Me, Satan!” The strong language of Jesus is meant to turn us, to awaken us and not destroy us (if he wanted to destroy us, he would). What we have to learn to do–and it is not at all easy for us–is to stop trying to be in control of everything and fall in line behind him again.

O Lord, how perfect Your love; for You will not allow us to stumble down a path that will lead to our ruin. If necessary, You will speak to us in a way that immediately gets our attention. And You do this to help us find our place again–that place of strength, security, and peace. That place behind You, following in Your steps.

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