Matthew 16.21-end: (NRSV)
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection:
21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ 23But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
The Cross and Self-Denial
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27 ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
Some ideas from J C Fenton ...
In the earlier verses of this chapter, we have the record of the time when Jesus revealed his identity as God’s Messiah to the disciples. This next utterance would then have been difficult for them to grasp, because their understanding of the Messiah would not have included any form of suffering. If fact this would be true for all Jews at the time. The concept of a suffering Messiah only came much later when Christians came to understand the significance of the death and Resurrection of Jesus and came to see it all as being part of God’s plan of salvation.
This is the first explicit prediction of the Passion. It is believed that Matthew used Mark as his source and it would also appear that Mark had compiled his version from imprecise sayings, but even the most sceptical of scholars do not deny that this sort of prediction was part of Jesus’ message to his disciples.
Jesus used stark words of condemnation to Peter, using the title Satan, because Peter was opposing the will of God. The ignorance of Peter is not just of the future of the disciples but also the future of Jesus: Jesus makes it clear that there is cost involved in following him. Jesus therefore begins to teach his disciples (pupils) that if they wish to come after him, and enter the glory of the age to come, they must follow him by being obedient to the will of God and this will mean suffering. They must not try to follow the secure way in this world, because this would mean losing their lives in the age to come.
Even though it seemed as though the disciples had understood the fact that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, they still did not get what this meant: they were still thinking of a conqueror, a warrior king, who would deliver them from their political oppressors. If the disciples had gone out and preached these ideas to the people, the result would have been rebellion. Before they could preach that Jesus was the Messiah, they had to learn what the true message was.
Central to the message was going to be the Cross and would entail a great deal of suffering. This was anathema to Peter who had been raised with the idea of a conquering Messiah and the idea of suffering seemed incredible, so he said that this must never happen. This is followed by the great rebuke ‘Get behind me Satan!’
Barclay suggests that we need to understand the following if we hope to make sense of this passage:
Jesus reacted in the way he did, because he was probably reminded of his great temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry: he had been tempted to take the path of power, meeting material needs and compromise with the ways of the world. Peter was confronting him again with the same temptations. Again and again, throughout Jesus’ ministry he confronted these temptations: no one would want a cross, a degrading and painful death. Barclay writes: ‘The sharpness and poignancy of Jesus’ answer is due to the fact that Peter was urging upon him the very things which the tempter was always whispering to him, the very things against which he had to steel himself ...’ That is why Peter was Satan; that is why Peter’s ideas were man’s and not God’s. Satan is any influence which seeks to turn us away from the ways of God.
O that we might always be able to resist the ways of Satan ...