"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:16
"But Peter took him aside and corrected him. 'Heaven forbid, Lord,' he said. 'This will never happen to you!'" v. 22
This must have been a confusing time for the disciples. They had been with Jesus for a while, they saw the miracles, they heard His words. These were Jesus' closest friends as well as His followers. He kept them close, explained things to them, and rebuked them when they lacked faith. Here He gave them a chance to profess, to test what they believed and why they followed Him: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter declared it, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." What an exciting time to live; what a wonder to realize this great promise, foretold by the prophets was coming true. The Messiah was come. What Israel had waited for, longed for. The great Hope of Jacob (of the world, but they didn't know that yet). This, the culmination of Israel's history; of the holy promise to Jacob; of the always-intended redemption of mankind (they probably didn't know that either); all this fulfilled in this Man, Jesus, the promised Messiah, Son of the living God, finally come to earth.
And He told them not to tell anyone.
"From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that He would be handed over to die" (v. 21).
Lord, forgive me. I think I would have protested too. How could He lead Israel to victory if He gave Himself up to killed -- by the teachers of the law He came to fulfil and the leaders of the nation He first came to save? They probably thought His life's work had just begun. It was humanly natural that their minds would fly to ambition. This must have been a time of emotional ups and downs, of confusion wrought by human reason drowning out simple trust. Especially for Peter. Jesus blesses him and promises him great authority. Then Peter tries to insist on things going the way he thinks they should, in light of this. And Jesus calls him Satan.
"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside selfish ambition, shoulder your cross and follow me." Lose your life to save your soul. Give up the whole world for Jesus. He has something better in store than anyone's ambitions or grandiose plans. Did they begin to understand then?
The Transfiguration was six days later. Peter got to see it, reacted kind of stupidly, but he must have needed that.
I have to wonder how slow I would have been. How misguided would my wandering thoughts be, how far would my expectations drift from the mark if I had been there to hear Jesus' words with these ears, from His own voice? Our understanding is so limited in comparison with His revelation. Sometimes He had to rebuke His followers for trying to fill in those spaces with their own explanations. Now, a couple of millenia later, we have His writtend word, we have the help of the Holy Spirit, we have the records of millions who lived for Christ, and there's still plenty of room to practice putting one foot in front of the other without looking away from Him to see where we're walking.
God reveals things as He wills, in His right time. He knows when we need it. But we need that simple trust which accepts what He says.
"Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambitions, shoulder your cross and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? For I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of my Father with His angels and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see me, the Son of Man, coming in my Kingdom."