Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:13-20.
When the Keys of the Kingdom were given to Simon Peter, the other disciples understood that Jesus was restoring Israel, that he was the Messiah and therefore, the King with authority to name a Steward for the royal house. Investing Peter with such authority did not mean that Peter was free to do as he pleased. On the contrary, by accepting his post as Vizier, Peter was surrendering part of his freedom. Tying and untying in the name of the king meant that he had to know and follow the king’s rules. The first instruction following his ordination was: “Do not tell anyone that I am the Messiah.” That simple command was followed by something nearly impossible to understand: the Messiah had to suffer and die at the hands of his enemies. That was too much for Peter’s mind to process.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! [also: follow me resister] You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ Matthew 16:21-23.
Only a few hours earlier Jesus had warned them about the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” that is, the hidden political agenda the religious parties of that age. Now Peter was falling for it. The Romans had forced the Jews to break their tradition and now there were two High Priests in the Temple. The religious leaders had divided also between what we would call today purists and progressives. Among them, on both sides, there were zealots who thought the Messiah would manifest himself once they started a liberation war against the Romans. Apparently, Peter had some room in his heart for those ideas. Most followers of Jesus thought he was going to lead an armed rebellion — even Jesus’ enemies thought that way! When Jesus began to speak about suffering and dying, poor Peter thought that was defeatist talk. At this point, Peter reacts impulsively and speaks his mind but this time his words were not inspired by the Father. The instantaneous reaction of Jesus caught Peter by surprise. In his first official act as chief counsel of the royal house, Peter inadvertently tried to tell the king what to do … Peter made his first big mistake. He was there to follow the king and for a moment he pretended that the king would follow him.
Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? Matthew 16:24-26.
The ways of the Kingdom of God require that we follow the King no matter where he goes (see Revelation 14:4) and our King’s battle is fought on two fronts: a heavenly and spiritual front, and also an earthly front. It will take the disciples a while to figure that out. We have to see the battle with the eyes of faith. Where the pagans see the foolishness of Christ crucified, we see Christ winning a secret battle invisible to the eyes of the world but perfectly visible for those who know. In time the earthly battle will come to an end and then the wisdom of the Cross will be revealed. Until that day we must follow the King and carry our cross.
‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’ Matthew 16:27-28.