A Quick Turn Around
At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples two important questions, “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”
The disciples could easily answer the first one, for people had been speculating about who Jesus actually was. Some thought He might be John the Baptist come back to life; others wondered if perhaps He was Elijah or one of the prophets.
The second question was perhaps more difficult. Peter spoke for the group: “You are the Christ.” The Christ. The Anointed One of God. The Messiah. The One Sent by God. The Savior.
They were right. They had passed the test. But they didn't do it on their own. Matthew's Gospel records Jesus blessing Peter after his declaration and noting that no human being had revealed this to him but God the Father Himself.
In any case, Peter and the disciples must have been feeling pretty good right about then. They were in the company of the Messiah, and they knew it!
Too bad those high flying moments didn't last.
Jesus began to teach the disciples the cold, hard facts about what it meant to be the Christ. The Messiah, Jesus, would suffer greatly. He would experience rejection from the Jewish leaders. Even more than that, He would be killed.
Peter was horrified. How could this happen to the Christ, to the One sent by God, One Who had come to save them? It was impossible. How could Jesus even talk about such things?
Peter actually began to rebuke Jesus. The Greek verb for “rebuke” is quite strong; it means “to admonish sharply” or “to censure severely.” Peter must have been really going at it. Matthew gives us some of his words: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to You!” He simply could not understand why God would subject His Messiah to such abuse, even to the point of death, and he didn't hesitate to say so.
Jesus turned and looked at His disciples. He spoke to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
What devastating words! Peter must have felt heart sink within him. Satan? How could Jesus call him that? He was just trying to help, just trying to express his disgust and dismay that something so horrible could ever happen to Jesus.
In only a few minutes, Peter had made a quick turn around from the elated man with the right answer to the downhearted fellow who had felt the sting of sharp words from the One he had just identified as his Messiah.
Thankfully, Jesus didn't leave Peter miserable for long. Calling His disciples together, He gave them an important lesson in self-denial, in the value of taking up their crosses and following Him. And only six days later, Peter would experience one of the high points of his life with Jesus...the Transfiguration.
Life with Jesus never was, and never is, dull.