Friend or Foe

April 25, 2021

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).

This is not ‘payback’ for Peter’s continued rebuke of Jesus regarding His words of impending persecution and death. There was no such intent in the heart or spirit of Christ toward His disciple. His intent was to correct the disciple who, after all this time with Jesus, should have known better than to counter His words or His will.

In the parallel passage found in Mark 8:33 we read, But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter . . . . Our Lord’s response to Peter was a single stinging rebuke done in front of the other disciples thereby causing him some embarrassment as the spokesman for the other disciples.

The word ‘satan’ literally means ‘adversary’ or someone who opposes another person in the accomplishment of his plans. The name is given to the devil as one who opposed Jesus or is the adversary of mankind.

Did Jesus really mean to call Peter ‘Satan’? Did He imply that Peter was actually Satan, or possessed by Satan? Did Jesus address Peter this way because He was angry at Peter? No, no, no, and no. Jesus did not use the term as a proper name (“Peter, you are Satan”), but in the general sense of adversary or one who stood in the Lord’s way (Peter, you are standing in My way”). Peter’s opinions and feelings were a roadblock to Jesus fulfilling the Father’s plan of salvation.

There was a rebuke in this language because Peter’s words and conduct were improper. But the severity which is commonly attached to it, and which the English translation conveys, implies a more harsh rebuke than Jesus intended. Today we would understand the words of Jesus as, “Step aside, for you are standing in My way by letting your personal interests interfere with God’s plan.”

How easy it is for us to take the attitude of Peter in the difficult aspects of ministry the Kingdom. Even if we thought for a moment that the leading of the Holy Spirit is too difficult for us, we are not in a position to stand opposed to Him or to rebuke Him. We do not read of Joshua’s opposition to God’s plan to overthrow Jericho. We do not see any hesitation on David’s part to stand in opposition to Goliath, knowing it was the Lord’s will that he do so.

“Father, give us obedient faith that is willing to take You at Your word. Temper our resistence to the difficult facets of ministry with a willingness to bring You honor and glory through our acceptance of Your perfect will and plan for our life. In Jesus’ name I ask, Amen.”


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