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Misunderstanding Jesus III: Misunderstanding the Man and His Mission

 ·  ☕ 9 min read  ·  ✍️ Odunayo Rotimi


Key Text: Matthew 16:22-24.
Key Character: Jesus.
Peter: A disciple of Jesus.
👀: Check here for part 1.

The disciples


Simon was the name of the vicious and destructive anger-sored son of Jacob. Reversing the cursed lots of the sons of Israel in Deut. 33, Moses had nothing to mention concerning Simeon. Because anger was unappealable. It could not be far fetched from why Jesus changed Simon – a nobody amongst the 12 tribes of Judah – to Peter, rock – a force to reckon with. His name explained his frame. His frame, in turn, explains his ways. Peter was a frivolous man, full of flippant reasoning and responses. In heavenly or spiritual things, each of us is or once were Simons but are now Peters – living stones used as materials to build God’s spiritual house – His Church. This makes Peter’s errors worth examining since our lives somewhat follow a similar trajectory.

Peter’s apprenticeship with Jesus started with a profound recognition of his unworthiness to be in Christ’s company. But on the contrary, being a repentant stock, coupled with the knowledge that he had that Jesus was condescending much to make him one of his followers, deepened his love and sense of commitment to Jesus. The reason for this was later explained by Jesus when he said, “To whom much is forgiven, same loves much.” His life showed that of a man who followed Jesus with great curiosity. One who Jesus amazed and whose amazement endured. This took him to great heights, and next to John the Baptist, Peter was the only one to be revealed the personality of Jesus by God the Father Himself.
This put together exposed him to privileges with Jesus. At some point, he was forthcoming. For example, many of the apostles who did not turn back from following Jesus owe their stay to Peter’s “To whom shall we go, seeing that you have the word of life?” But, at other times, he was utterly disappointing. Let us examine some.

It was on the issue of the cross that Peter crossed His boundary. Some sang, “Jesus keep me near the cross….” Peter resounded, “Jesus, don’t go near the cross.” They sang, there is glory there; Peter was bent on robbing Christ His glory. How just was Jesus to rebuke Him sternly! Peter was on the side of those he would later preach against - those who esteem the cross foolish.

It was a fabulously blessed day in the region of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus decided to play the “Name Game” with the disciples. So goes the rules: Jesus says something to be named, and the only one with a unique name to present would win the day. So, they started, but the game’s height came when Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They all came with chorus answers at stage one of the game. The disciples chorused, “Some say you are John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”

Seeing that no one was eliminated at this stage of the game, Jesus then upped the difficulty level. Hence, He asked, “Who do you yourselves say that I am?” Now, there followed a time of stillness. Because anyone who mentioned a generic name that had been mentioned earlier would be out of the game. Most of them held the same opinion as held by the crowd. Finally, while searching their memories for unique prophet names, Peter’s Spirit surged with a unique name. It was a convincing description, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” With jaws dropped, everybody agreed and cheered Peter. He won the game because flesh and blood – reason and logic – did not supply such an answer. In no time, Jesus got into lauding him so extensively.

On the one hand, Jesus was full of thanks to the Father that God accepted the men He presented before Him as disciples and sealed the approval by whispering to the heart of Peter. On the other hand, Jesus was happy that His time had not been a waste with the disciples. They were maturing, and this ushered in a new level of interaction. Deep things such as crucifixion, death and resurrection could be discussed subsequently.

As a reward, Jesus, who seldom praise people, except those who amazed Him with their exhibition of profound faith, was full of praise and accolades for Peter. I can imagine how enviable Peter’s position was that day. The first reward to what one could have deemed a typical game was a name change from frail Simon to rock-solid Peter. Second, a promise of the key to His kingdom – whoever he forgives their sins remains forgiven, and whoever does not has the gate of heaven shut agist Him permanently. Third, a promise of being a role model for building the Church of God – he would not become the rock but a pillar; the foundation is solely Christ and the crown of it. Finally, Jesus ended the truth-leading game session by warning them sternly not to tell anyone what Peter had graciously gotten and divulged. It was a piece of privileged information. What is hidden about Jesus, no one dear reveal except the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

How swollen by victory Peter’s head got that He suddenly relegated Jesus through familiarity. How careful Jesus is to praise us that we may not slip like Peter. Jesus wanted to start building on the rock (revelation of Himself) immediately. God’s revelation of Jesus to Peter and Christ’s approval of the same was enough foundation to begin to build the Church on. Jesus seemed to be explaining to them that the very foundation of the Church will be based on the sacrifice of One who decided to give Himself for it. He seemed to begin to tell them that the Church will be built on the gift of One, whom it was not worthy of. Jesus seemed to be reasoning with someone who just got a revelation from God. The understanding He had will help him understand even more profound things. No sooner than Jesus Jesus finished His speech than we noticed Peter had been carried away by the Euphoria of accolades He just received from Jesus. Oh, Satan swung into action immediately! Found always to be contesting against God. “Has God used Peter, ‘I will make myself like the Most High’ and ascend above the heights of the clods in his heart.” Peter knew this other side of glory as just immediately experienced. Still, he was ignorant of the flip side, which was suffering. Jesus trying to make Him a blessed, balanced man, decided to augment His view. Lo, his heart was already beclouded by Satan’s invasion.

Hence, he misunderstood Jesus when He began to tell them the cost of building the Church. The cornerstone would be rejected, killed, and buried. And through burial will be fitted in the position of the cornerstone. Peter later told us we would suffer a similar fate as the living stones or building blocks. He got Jesus wrong. Feeling he had to talk some sense into Jesus, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. Peter promoted Himself to the Lord’s counsellor and recommended confidently, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You!” in response to Jesus’ declaration of His forthcoming, predestined betrayal, humiliation and crucifixion.

In Mathew’s narratives, “But Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get thee behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purpose but men’s.’” Jesus could not stand rebuking His disciple like a Devil. He had to give Him him His back before He did it. Would someone hare my opinion that this was tender love? Would someone dare believe that this was a buttress to the explanation of the Church building that Jesus had begun to explain? Jesus’ treatment seemed harsh on the surface. Yet He was helping Peter understand, through hard words, what he would not in simple expressions. Oh, Judas did not get such favour. Perhaps he would have repented. It was an explanation that sank deeply. Jesus needed to make it sound harsh to deafen him to the accolades he just received and was on the verge of destroying him. Jesu needed to call him devil while repentance could still be reached.
On the contrary, when did Jesus call Judas, a friend? At the verge where there was no turning back. The sound of the word “friend” after Judas had betrayed Jesus would be more of a seed of torment than a call to repentance. Happy is the man whom Jesus calls devil with few sharp piercing but repentance-compelling sentences when genuine repentance could still be reached.

Oh, sharp and piercing, painful and unpalatable may land the rod being used for your correction by your heavenly Father. Rejoice, dear friend, it is God teaching you, without words, how to outgrow the naïve misunderstanding of Peter. And so you may mature in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or how shall the saying, “the child whom the Father loves He chastens,” come to fulfilment concerning you? Is the rod being used on you not indicate that you are a sheep of His pasture? Though Peter heard the voice, “Get behind Me,” every piece of evidence suggests that he followed Jesus. Why? He was a sheep of God” s pasture. He knew His Master and His Master not only knew him in return but also knew how to deal with him. Therefore, “Get behind Me” was Shepherd’s way of saying “Follow Me. But follow more purposefully by realigning your goal to Mine.”

The rod the Master uses to correct your misunderstanding of His will, teachings and instructions may be sickness, deprivation, delay, denial, pains or any sort of affliction. My friend, I urge you to be as committed as Peter, whose response to “Get behind Me,” even more decisive following of the Master. It is tough to swing between one extreme of praise this moment; and sharp humiliating rebuke, the other. Thomas would have ridiculed Peter, Andrew would privately rebuke him later. Yet Peter swallowed his pride and realigned with the fold. Whatever is the source of your failure, don’t distance yourself from God’s folk despite the humiliation. Shall these pain, suffering, hunger caused by God separate or lessen you in the sight of God? Nay, in all of these, you are more than a conqueror, without which you would be a mere coward. In fact, in them all, you are on an upward pedestal, pressing on the upward way, and each day you endure, you gain new heights.

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Odunayo Rotimi
Odunayo Rotimi