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. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 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 16:21-23
This confrontation described above between our Master and the great disciple Peter is a startling and instructive one. Peter had just been commended by Jesus for His divinely inspired declaration that Jesus was Messiah, but it didn’t take long for the bold disciple to step over the line from loyalty to insubordination. Of course, I think we can all sympathize with the sentiment behind Peter’s rebuke of the Lord. Who would want to allow the Master to undergo suffering, public humiliation, and death?
The problem with Peter’s actions was not with the sentiment that inspired them, but that he stepped out of his place in the order of things and became an adversary (i.e. “satan”) of his Master rather than a servant. Jesus wasn’t sharing the future that awaited Him in the hopes that His stalwart disciples would rescue Him. No, He was trying to bring them into the Father’s purpose that He had been bearing all alone for so long.
When Jesus told Peter to get behind Him, it was a clear rebuke of the disciple’s pride. “Get back to the place where you belong, Peter – behind me!” Jesus is Rabbi, and He leads. It is not the place of the disciple to correct or redirect Him. “Get back to following, Peter, instead of trying to lead the way.”
Can you see the clear challenge in this episode to all who follow Jesus as Master today, Disciple? In pursuing the mission that His Father gave Him, He is seeking followers who will trust Him and follow Him where He is going – even if it means rejection, suffering, and death. Emotions and sentiments are great, but they cannot replace simple trust and obedience. At the end of the day, Disciple, the issue we must wrestle with is whether we are obeying the Master in day-to-day decisions we make, not how we feel about Him.
We have to be ready to hear and follow the voice of our Shepherd even when His voice is telling us things we don’t want to hear. Remembering our proper place in the relationship, we have to stay behind the Master and follow His lead. Having questions and seeking clarification when we’re confused is a beautifully proper thing for a disciple to do, but defying the word of our Master is never appropriate. It is for us to say, “Yes, Lord,” not, “Never, Lord”! I know that our Master calls you to do hard things just as He calls me to them. When He does, remember that His Father called Him to the hardest things of all, and He willingly trusted and obeyed saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Learning to submit even when it hurts,