Thursday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home studied another key event in Peter’s life, his confessing Jesus to be the Christ and his rebuking of Jesus. The event is described in Matthew 16:13-28, Mark 8:27-9:1, and Luke 9:18-27. We studied Matthew’s account of it because it is the fullest and because Serendipity Bible for Groups contains a questionnaire for beginning groups for it. Here it is from the English Standard Version (ESV):
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to 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 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.”
In our previous meeting I’d distributed copies of the questionnaire and of the DIG questions on Matthew 16:13-28 given in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, pages 1266-67), my having permission from Serendipity House to reproduce material from Serendipity Bible for Groups for small group use. We shared our answers to the Looking into the Scripture part of the questionnaire, discussed the DIG questions, and shared our answers to the My Own Story of the questionnaire.
In answering Looking into the Scripture, we concluded:
1. Our answers varied on what the average person where we work would say if asked, “Who is Jesus?”
2. When Peter said, “You are the Christ,” he meant that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the promised and expected deliverer of the Jews, who will bring an era of peace and justice.
3. Peter got upset when Jesus explained the cross because he didn’t want Jesus to suffer.
4. When Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he was warning the disciples that their following him would cost them everything.
5. When Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” he meant either “Why pay the ultimate price for temporary happiness?” or “Someday you’ll have to answer for your choices.”
6. Our answers varied on how we thought Peter would feel after the event.
The questions in My Own Story ask for personal information and so, although we shared our answers in the group, I won’t share them here.
These are the DIG Questions, each accompanied by what I can remember from our discussion of it, a personal comment on it, and/or a relevant quotation from a commentary on Matthew:
1. Why did people think that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah?
John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah were all prophets. King Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead (Mark 6:16). In Malachi 4:5-6 God promised to send Elijah to prepare people for the Day of the Lord.
2. What was significant about Peter’s confession?
Peter confessed Jesus to be the Messiah expected by the Jews (see Looking into the Scripture, 2, above) and to be the Son of God or divine (only Matthew’s account includes “the Son of the living God”).
3. How do you interpret the insight (v. 17), power (v. 18), and authority (v. 19) given to Peter? What are the “keys” of the kingdom? What do they “bind” and “loose”? [Compare Jesus’ words to Peter in verse 19 to his words to all the disciples in 18:18-20.]
We spent considerable time discussing this question, my referring to https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/peter-the-first-pope/ and our expanding on it.
4. Why does Jesus change the direction of his teaching now?
“The beginning of a new emphasis in Jesus’ ministry. Instead of teaching the crowds in parables, he concentrated on preparing the disciples for his coming suffering and death” (NIV Study Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1985).
5. What kind of Messiah was Peter expecting? Why was Jesus’ response to Peter so strong (see 4:1-11)?
“Like other Jews at the time, [Peter] probably understood the Messiah’s work in primarily earthly and political terms; defeat and death … was not on his agenda. In this he expressed the things of man, and as long as Jesus’ disciples shared this purely human perspective, Jesus’ mission (the things of God) could never make sense to them. … Hence [Jesus’] remarkably fierce reaction in v 23.” R. T. France in The New Bible Commentary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994 edition). Peter’s rebuke to Jesus was similar to Satan’s temptations to Jesus in the wilderness.
6. What activities and attitudes are at the heart of Christian discipleship? How does a Christian forfeit his life? What things tempt people to lose their life or exchange their soul?
“The person who tries to hang on to his own will and reject what God desires for him ultimately loses eternally all that he is attempting to protect in this life. … On the other hand, the person who lets loose of her own self-centered desires and accepts God’s will for her discovers true life” (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004).
7. How might verse 28 relate to what happens next?
Verse 28 may be a prediction of the transfiguration, three of the disciples seeing in it what Jesus will be like when he comes again. However, other interpretations of the verse are possible, such as its referring to Jesus’ reign in the post-resurrection church.
This event illustrates Peter’s ups and downs. No sooner has he made a significant confession of faith and been praised by Jesus for it than he rebukes Jesus and in return is rebuked by Jesus. But he will finally get it right, as Larry R. Helyer observes in his The Life and Witness of Peter: “His letters reflect his mature views. In his first letter, he now clearly grasps the necessity of Jesus’ sufferings before his glory: ‘the Spirit of Christ within them [the prophets] indicate when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory’ (1 Pet 1:11). Not even a whiff of Jewish, nationalistic messianism may be detected in Peter’s epistles” (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2012, page 46).