GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
15 February 2023
2nd Sunday before Lent
Being A True Disciple of Christ
In many of our places, it is intolerable to call someone who disturbs others 'Satan'. This often ends up in a fight or the termination of a relationship. Peter was Jesus’ most devoted servant. Peter had just declared Jesus as the Messiah “the Son of the living God”. Peter had long been a favourite of Jesus and the one who is eventually appointed to lead his earthly church. But in this moment, Jesus rebukes Peter at Caesarea Philippi by calling him the worst name in the book, ‘Satan’. Why is that?
In Matthew 16,21-28, Jesus reveals he must be killed by religious leaders and raised on the third day. It was absolutely foreign to Peter and the other disciples to think Messiah would willingly allow Himself to be killed by the Jewish religious leaders. In their minds, this simply couldn’t happen. It should be noted that Peter’s insistence that Messiah could not be killed is based in his own assumptions, not the truth revealed by Jesus. Gently taking Jesus’ arm, Peter took him aside and said to Jesus, ‘Mercy on you, Lord! This will never happen to you (Matthew 16,22). Peter, recently praised for his faith, rebukes Jesus for saying such things. Jesus responds with a devastating rebuke of His own, saying, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’
In our cultures, disciples simply do not talk to their masters in such a way, directly contradicting them. It must be shocking that Peter felt comfortable correcting the one he had described as the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16). Today, many Theologians comfortably correct what Christ said in the Bible by categorising it as 'not fit' for today's world. So, some can easily be called ‘Satan’ (as Jesus told Peter) because they have failed to defend biblical truth by their life and doctrine, and are dangerously accommodating the culture of the day.
In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus who praised Peter enthusiastically and declared that Peter now possessed the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16,17-19), turns to Peter and says, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ In the present case, Peter uses his natural human instincts and wrong compassion to see a friend dying a cruel and premature death, to tempt Jesus to abandon his God-given task as the suffering Servant destined to die for his people.
But it must also be said that Peter was with Jesus, but he had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Afterwards, the same Peter served Christ with commitment in spirit and truth. We cannot serve Christ in truth unless our minds are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ response to Peter was even more extreme. “Get away behind me, Satan!” Whereas Peter’s rebuke of Jesus was given privately, Jesus’ rebuke of Peter was delivered in front of all the disciples because it was a message relevant to them all, a message they all needed to hear since Peter had simply been their spokesman. Sometimes we have a duty to publicly rebuke evil without tolerance, though in love.
As Jesus said to Peter that he is a hindrance and obstacle to him because Peter's mind is on human things and not the things of God, in the same way, most of our church leaders are viewing matters from a purely human and popular perspective, not from God’s perspective. They have become a “stumbling block” to the Church of Christ. They conform to the present age where evil is relative because it depends on one culture to another. Paul asks that they be transformed by the renewing of their minds to discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
We often seek to correct what Christ said on the basis of our 'scientific', 'modern' and cultural knowledge. We tend to think merely in a limited, human context, not the whole context of Christ's redemptive work. We speak of love for Christ, but in ignorance of Who this Christ is and tend to destroy Christ’s ministry by protecting sin.
Our prayer is to set our minds, not on the things of men, that is, on fleshly ideas of a glorious Messiah, but on the things of God, that is, on His great purposes for the redemption of the world through the sufferings of the Saviour. Christ asks us to renounce our 'self', to take up our cross and follow Him in obedience unto death. So we can save, not only our earthly life, but mostly the divine life created by the Spirit of God in Truth.
Lord, help me to be your obedient servant and preach faithfully the True Gospel to your people.
The Most Revd Titre Ande
Primate of Congo