The Foolish Rebuke: Matthew 16:20-23
“20) Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. 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 be raised up on the third day. 22) Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23) But 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 ‭16‬:‭20‬-‭23‬ ‭
Something subtle but significant happens in verse 21. This is the first time in the book of Matthew that the two proper titles of “Jesus” and “Christ” come together. “21) From that time Jesus Christ began to tell His disciples…” For the first time the disciples understood the full identity of Jesus Christ. He was the Messiah! He was the Son of God.
Though He had told them before, another significant truth was starting to register. Jesus again forewarns them of His coming death in Jerusalem. He says that “He must” go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, be killed and raised on the third day. Note the word “must.” It was not optional.
John the Baptist had introduced Him as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (See John 1:29-37) They should have put it together, but God was preparing the Lamb of God for the Passover sacrifice. The clock was ticking. The Passover was approaching quickly.
It was at this point that Peter allowed his emotions to cloud his judgement. Verse 22 says; “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” A few minutes earlier he had declared; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”; and now he was rebuking Jesus.
Lest we get to judgmental with Peter, we must reflect on the times in “prayer” we have told God how to conduct business. But I must admit, rebuking Jesus was stepping over the line. What was happening inside of Peter? Let me pose a possible scenario.
Remember how the Temptations of Christ in the wilderness ended. Luke 4:13 says; “And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” This was one of those “opportune times.” Satan was using Peter to manipulate the emotions of Jesus. Later he was going to use Judas to betray Him. Satan often drives wedges between people by using emotions to create conflict.
Some of the worse counsel can come from people closest to us. They are often more concerned about our safety than our obeying God. Their emotions can cloud their judgement.
Jesus did not fall for this subtle attack. He recognized the presence of Satan and resisted him. He told him to get behind Him. In a sense, Jesus stepped between Peter and Satan. Sometimes we need to intervene for people as well.
It is at this point that Jesus gives a bit of profound advice to His disciples. He warned them about setting their interests on self motives rather than Gods interests. Self agendas seldom serve the will of God. This is the point at which many Christians derail their callings. They fix their eyes on self instead of God. It can be such a subtle drift.
In this broader context, Peter moved from Divine illumination to self delusion in the span of a few minutes. It amazes me how quickly godly discernment can descend into fleshly motives. When it happens, do what Jesus did; address it quickly!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global