But He turned and said to Peter, â€œGet behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.â€ (Mt 16:23)
These words snap like a lightening boltâ€”can you imagine Peterâ€™s jolted reaction? And they still carry the forcefulness and power to "jolt" our senses today. They warn us to be careful even when we are well meaning, as I think Peter was when he spoke the words that prompted Jesus' quick rebuke.
"Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" Peter criedâ€”and whenever I read these words, I canâ€™t help but sympathize. Peter had just recently reconfirmed his commitment to Jesus through his confession and conviction that Jesus was the â€œChrist, the son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). I think Peter spoke in verse 22 because of his commitment to Jesus. He was trying to deny or reject the possibility that anything should threaten the Lord, or his own link to Him. Quite simply, Peter was afraid, I think, of losing Jesus, and therefore of losing all that he had.
But Jesus' quick rebuke teaches us that we canâ€™t say "never" to the Lordâ€”because we cannot set up any potential stumbling blocks to His greater plan. Jesus may have in mind a very strong "Yes" to all that we as humans wish to say "No!" to: "no" to loss, "no" to danger, "no" to suffering, "no" to death. These represent the limits of our humanity, the mortality that we constantly struggle to avoid but must face. In our struggles, though, we are merely stuck in the sphere of men; we have in mind the "things of men," but are blind to the "things"â€”the potentialitiesâ€”of God.
Our Lord has in mind things that are so much greater, ways that are unimaginable to our limited vision. How can we lose all we have and still gain something infinitely greater? How can death lead to any good? Jesus had to open the way, through death to life, in order to transform the paradigms, the parameters, the "rules." He broke them. He changed them. And he dares us, challenges us, and pushes us to believe and follow the new ones He has set.
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-5)