Matthew 16:21-28 (ESV)
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Jesus let his disciples know what the near future held for him. Soon he was going to be killed and then rise again on the third day. Peter, who was just commended by Jesus for rightly stating that he was the Messiah and the Son of the Living God, went in the opposite direction and chose now to rebuke Jesus. Peter thought Jesus’ statement made no sense. How could the Messiah be killed? That wasn’t a part of Peter’s plan for the future, especially after he had just received Jesus’ praise and promise of blessing. It is startling to read that Jesus then addresses Peter as Satan (v. 23). Jesus had just told Peter that God himself revealed Jesus’ identity to Peter. Matthew records these incidents back to back to show us that right after Peter was praised for listening to the Holy Spirit, his focus slipped back to his own agenda. Satan wanted to keep Jesus from the cross, and the enemy used whomever he could to try to thwart our Savior from carrying out the plan the Father sent him to accomplish. Jesus used this opportunity to teach Peter and the disciples that following him would always involve a cost.
As Jesus went on to say, gaining everything in this world is not worth it if the cost is our soul. Yet, Jesus clearly told his disciples that in losing their lives, they would find even better ones (v. 25). Jesus was prepared to endure the coming darkness, knowing that the great joy on the other side could only be accomplished if he walked head on into the storm. Like Peter, we can be foolish too. We can make great decisions and act rightly on them one minute, and then immediately afterward make silly and selfish moves. We can track with God, hold fast to wise choices, and then suddenly get tripped up when something doesn’t fit into our agenda, and shift our focus back to the cares of this life. Let’s be watchful as we walk along the path that God has in mind for us today. When something doesn’t go our way, let’s know our potential to react selfishly, keep our guard up and make sure we are responding in a way consistent with what we truly believe. Let’s learn from Peter to trust God, even when things aren’t going as we planned.