It seems there was no middle ground. Though there’s no doubt as to the purity of Peter’s motive, he was, nevertheless, staking his flag on enemy territory. Even though what Jesus said was so out there, it seems that if you weren’t “out there” with Him, then you were pretty much setting yourself up against Him. And it all came down to Peter’s thinking, whether he was thinking on the things of God or on the things of man.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:31-33 ESV)
Mark 8:31 signals a shift in the ministry of Jesus. Having established Himself beyond doubt with His disciples that He was the Christ (8:30), the promised One of God, He now reveals to them plainly — also beyond doubt — what lies ahead for the Son of Man. And it’s not what they expected. It wasn’t on their radar because they weren’t looking for a suffering Messiah. And it wasn’t on their radar because they had authentically fallen in love with the Man from Galilee. A rejected, abused, and murdered Christ didn’t line up with what they envisioned concerning Messiah or what they wanted for their Master and Friend. And so, in classic Peter way, having declared in one breath, “You are the Christ,” almost with the next breath he pulls Jesus aside and says, “You are mistaken. No way, Lord!”
Okay . . . are we really going to judge Peter. Pretty understandable reaction. I’m guessing his mind was turned so upside down by “suffer . . . rejected . . . and be killed” that Peter never really heard the “rise again” part. Even if he did, why would God’s Anointed even be put in a situation where resurrection was necessary? You’d think that Jesus would have cut him a bit of slack. But He doesn’t. I can’t imagine a more harsh rebuke. But then again, perhaps I need to focus on the dramatic shift in mindset that had occurred within Peter.
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Jesus had commended Peter’s declaration that He was the Christ. And it had not been because Peter was so smart or such a quick-study, but because Peter has been so blessed, the Father having illuminated his understanding. He had seen the works of Christ and heard the words of Christ, just as many others who rejected Jesus had, and yet, having set his mind on the things of God, he saw Jesus as the promised One. But when it came to the tough truth of His rejection . . . that Jesus would die . . . Peter ran it through a mind set on the things of man. And in so doing, he set himself in opposition to the Savior. Though unwittingly and unintentionally, by rejecting the plain truth from the Word of God, he took sides with the enemy.
There was no middle ground. Either take God’s word as it is plainly revealed and stand for the kingdom, or filter God’s word through “the things of man” and stand against the kingdom. And there’s a lot of “things of man” going on in our world. Our increasingly “enlightened” world is redefining, at an alarming rate, that which is moral and even that which is natural. And many, even in the church, are shifting from what God said to what they want to believe God meant. In effect saying, “Not so, Lord!”
Jesus came not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17). And that would involve Him going to the cross, though it wasn’t a popular thought. It also involves, I think, standing for truth even though that truth might run contrary with modern day opinion polls. Standing for truth not that the world might be judged but that they would know their desperate need for a Savior. A Savior who is a Son . . . sent of the Father . . . to suffer, be rejected, and killed that sin might be fully atoned for. A Savior who would rise again on the third day . . . in accordance with His word . . . that He might conquer sin and death. And, in so doing, would testify to the truthfulness of His Word, His entire Word.
That God’s people would stand, by God grace, for God’s truth. For the rescue of many . . . for the glory of God.