Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
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 16:16-23
I have written about this passage before, and a few things may be repeated, but something struck me about this odd string of sound bites. The old lay-witness team that I was a part of in the early 70s would say, “Get behind me Satan, and don’t push!” But what struck me upon reading this passage, yet again, was:
Peter is neither the rock on which the church will be built nor Satan.
Peter is human. Humans are fallen creatures and if we were the foundation for anything, whatever it was would not be a lasting structure. Note that this testimony of Peter is before he denied Jesus three times and before he was offered the sheet filled with unclean animals and refused to eat, repeatedly. Peter liked arguing, and he had no problem with arguing with God. Maybe some of that was Peter’s extroversion, where his mouth started to say things before his brain was firmly in gear.
I have heard sermons on Jesus referring to Peter’s assertion that Jesus was the Messiah as being the foundation of the church. That makes a lot of sense, and you could build a church on that firm foundation.
But what of Jesus’ words that Peter’s assertion was not from flesh and blood, but from our Heavenly Father? We are not alone here. We have the Holy Spirit whispering in our ears, guiding us.
Yet, sometimes the louder voice in our head is that of Satan. In these short moments from one conversation to the next, Peter is praised for hearing God’s voice and acting upon it, and he is rebuked for listening to Satan, simply the world concept of protecting yourself and your leader. Jesus was rebuking Satan, because Satan had caused Peter to listen to the wrong voice.
The foundation of God being with us, near us, and in us is foundational, but building a church on only that might be a bit uncertain. We might have wisdom in studying Scriptures and in prayer to listen to only God’s voice, but the next guy may be a bit lazy or a bit too self-reliant. At that point, he might listen to Satan as readily as to God.
As such, we need to spend even more time in Bible study and prayer. We need to be able to recognize God’s voice when He speaks to us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.