“Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mk 8:33).
Peter received this rebuke from Jesus only moments after he recognized Jesus as the Christ. This was a significant insight inspired by God, but he was still seeing Jesus from the limited perspective of his preconceived notion of who the Messiah was to be. Peter was not alone in this presumption. For some five hundred years the chosen people were awaiting the promise and fulfillment of the Messiah. The greater majority sought a Messiah in the mold of a new King David. One who politically, and if is necessary militarily, would liberate the people from their Roman oppression.
The Messiah would set things right. The Messiah would restore proper order politically, but also spiritually. Many of the Jews were not happy with the alliance that the Sadducees, who held control over the Temple, had with Rome.
Peter got the first part right when he answered the question Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am” (Mk 8:27), but he saw not the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 but most likely some other view of the Messianic hope of Israel. When Jesus began to build on Peter’s first insight by sharing how he would suffer, be rejected, and killed, he probably did not even hear anything about rising on the third day. He pulled Jesus aside and began to rebuke him!
We can learn from Peter’s boldness. In both instances, Peter confidently shared what he believed. In the first insight, that Jesus is the Christ, he was on target. In the second, he was off the mark by not understanding the reality of Jesus’ impending suffering and death, and was corrected. Peter stated what he believed, sometimes insightful, sometimes shortsighted, yet through each experience he learned. Sometimes they were hard lessons, such as when he rejected Jesus three times. Yet Peter kept coming back to Jesus. We can state clearly that Peter was not lukewarm and/or indecisive.
I tend to be more cautious, reflective and often indecisive. I could use more of Peter’s boldness. What doesn’t work is being afraid of making mistakes. Jesus shared a key lesson with Peter that we need to fully appreciate, and that is, we need to understand things from God’s perspective. Our discernment in this area will only improve as we build our relationship with God, as did Peter’s.
Making mistakes, sinning, falling for temptations is not so much the problem as is trying to rationalize or justify them, and staying in a state of self justification when we become aware of them. We need to face them with contrition, seek forgiveness, and learn from them if we are to mature in our relationship with God and no longer be enslaved by our weaknesses. The good news is that we are not alone. Jesus walks with us each step of the way. Will he convict us and rebuke us as he did with Peter? Absolutely, because he loves us and seeks the best for us, but he will also provide the support and empowerment we need to get the most effective balance of boldness and humility.