Jesus begins to tell his disciples what kind of Messiah he is, because their conception of “Messiah” did not match reality. As Messiah, he would not wage war or embrace rebellion, he would suffer, and be rejected. Jesus was not some would-be rebel who couldn’t find a way to gain power militarily so he sought another way; this was his intention all along. He says, in verse 31, there are four things that had to happen to him. There are four things that are not options for him as the Messiah. The word “must” governs the verse and should be read throughout in order to more fully grasp what is being said. Remember he had been saying the Time is fulfilled; this is how he would fulfill the Time.
It says he must suffer. He must be rejected. He must be killed. These are the first three. He had been saying the Kingdom of God was present. Verse 31 ends by saying after 3 days, he must rise again, the fourth thing that must happen. The way the Time would be fulfilled and God’s Kingdom would come would be through the cross and the resurrection. This is how the Kingdom was present, through death and resurrection. Verse 32 says he spoke “plainly”. In other words, he was careful to make sure his disciples knew this wasn’t a parable. He was careful to avoid confusion. And then Peter, who had represented the disciples in a great way for one brief and shining moment, takes Jesus aside in verse 32 and rebukes him. Peter understood Jesus to be the Messiah, but his confusion lied in what that meant. He had a conception of who Jesus should be and when Jesus didn’t live up to that, Peter was angry. Rebuking is much stronger than disagreeing. This is how Jesus treated the demons when he cast them out. So Peter is confronting Jesus in just about the strongest possible manner.
People often get angry with God because he didn’t live up to their expectations. God let someone they loved pass away, or they have suffered too much. So they are resigned to simply being mad at God and rebuking him. Maybe it is you who has been angry with God because of something he did or didn’t do, or something he did or didn’t give you. Jesus says, I’m going to endure all of that – the suffering, the rejection, the death – so when it happens to you, you can’t say God doesn’t know what you’re going through or God doesn’t care. He cares immensely. He cares enough to leave the perfection of heaven and step into this mess, suffer and die in this mess and rise out of it, so that one day he can set everything right. God may have not done what you expected, but he was rejected, he suffered, he was killed, and then he rose again to prove he cares. Whatever our expectations of God’s intervention in our lives, his suffering on the cross is the greatest demonstration of his love for us.
Jesus sees the other disciples and recognizes again that Peter represents their feelings so he returns fire. He calls Peter satanic because he is more concerned with the temporal things of this world than the plan of God. Peter is opposing the plan of God, and Jesus mixes no words to let him know as much. The disciples expected positions of prominence and importance in this new Kingdom that Jesus was going to establish, and Jesus going to a cross wouldn’t allow for that. Jesus is leading the disciples to re-learn the concept of Messiah in light of what he is going to do through suffering, crucifixion, and then resurrection. This was difficult for the disciples, but Jesus confronts their desire to use him for personal gain. In rebuking Peter and the disciples, he tells them that using the things of God for personal gain is demonic, satanic.
We all probably have a disgust for certain TV preachers who manipulate the people of God and the things of God for their own egos and prosperity. And as tempted as we are to look at those types of people, the application here is to look to our own hearts. The politics of church life in America are driven by this and it’s causing masses of people to avoid the church and despise Christians in general. It’s not “those people” that we need to be concerned with. We need to examine our own hearts and make sure our motivation is not Satanic like Peter’s was on this day.
In the next passage, Jesus offers us a way to evaluate our hearts and lives so that we can guard against this type of demonic motivation.