Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Son of Man was Jesus’ way of referring to himself in the third person. It was ambiguous enough to not get him killed (right away anyway), but rich enough to describe his mission and vocation). Now, his disciples didn’t actually know. They said, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” But then Jesus asks his disciples directly, “Who do you say I am?”
We can only imagine the silence as they fidgeted and kicked in the dirt trying to figure out how to answer him. I’m not sure anyone would be comfortable answering a question from the same guy who they witnessed drive out demons, raise the dead, heal the sick, rebuke the religious authorities, calm the storm, and more. Theologian Gordon Fee describes the scene well noting that Peter’s thoughts were likely spinning like mad when he blurted out, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
In the next scene Jesus praises God for enlightening Peter, he elaborates on the kingdom of God, and tells everyone to keep the Messiah stuff quiet. Then Jesus begins to describe what this kingship is going to look like. It’s not heading to a throne – but to a cross. It’s a road of suffering, pain, and death. Peter, as Tim Keller points out, had absolutely no frame of reference for this. Ever since Peter was on his mother’s knee he had heard about the might and power of the messiah. Yet, here was Jesus – the Messiah – saying he was going to suffer. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus, who only minutes before was including him in the shower of praise to God for recognizing who he is, calls him Satan. Here’s what we’re told: Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Why such a harsh rebuke? What did we we miss? Borrowing from a Keller sermon, Jesus was saying, “Yes, I am the king, you’ve got that right. But I’m not the kind that fits into your human agenda.” Peter wanted Jesus to go to Jerusalem and bust some heads. Peter had no paradigm for a messiah’s head to get busted. It was unthinkable to him, literally. Jesus was showing him that he needs to get his agenda straight. King Jesus is in charge.
Jesus was saying I’m the king, I’m the Son of Man – the one from Daniel 7 – the one who is to be slain and thrown into the blazing fire. And we also find this:
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
This is is Jesus’ Kingdom. He is the Little Horn that turned the world upside down – and saved it.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson