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Matthew 16:23

The Rock

At one given moment in Peter’s life, Jesus called him a “rock” and at another, “Satan.” Jesus appellations were poles apart in meaning and significance:

(1) Peter called a “rock”: When in Caesarea, Jesus asked Peter, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered correctly, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15,16). Following Peter’s great statement of faith, Jesus commended Peter on the basis and called him a “rock”

(2) Peter called “Satan” not because Peter did not know who the Lord really was, but

  • Because in spite of the fact that he knew who Jesus was, he wanted the Lord to act opposite to His true nature.
  • Although Peter knew that the Lord came to die on the cross for our sins, he could not relinquish the hope that Jesus would, at that time, set up His earthly kingdom.
  • Peter wanted Jesus to use His omnipotence to prevent death, humanity’s death.
  • Perhaps for personal reasons, Peter was more interested in Jesus’ remaining alive. If He were proclaimed an earthly king, Peter would reap some material benefit.

(3) When do we act like Satan'

  • When we are more interested in simply preserving our present status.
  • When we view death in our own lives as a defeat instead of the prelude to the resurrection.
  • When we put self and material interests above those of Christ.

In Matthew 16:23, the Lord not only called Peter “Satan” but He said to him, “You are an offence to me.” The Greek word for “offence” is skandalon. This is the piece of metal on a mousetrap to which a piece of cheese is attached. The Lord Jesus said to Peter, “You are Satan because you are trying to trap me into preserving my humanity in order to escape my divine purpose in life.”

This pursuit of selfish interest constitutes the greatest danger in the life of any believer.

Often in Scripture Satan is addressed through the creature he is influencing. For example, when Jesus foretold His crucifixion Peter began to rebuke Him. But Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23) In addition, when God pronounced a curse on Satan in Genesis 3:14, 15, He addressed Satan indirectly through the serpent. So too in Ezekiel 28:11-19.

A Holy Rebellion, T. Ice & R. Dean, Harvest House, 1990, p. 40