Pogo was right. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter,[b] and on this rock[c] I will build my church, and the powers of death[d] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance[e] to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
This is an interesting section of scripture. Jesus, after asking his disciples who they and others say that he is, affirms Peter’s insight about who Christ is and promises to give Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
Then, having established his identity with them, he began to tell them some of the deeper, harder aspects of his reason for coming….including about his death and resurrection. But Peter tries to dissuade Jesus, “rebuke him” the scripture says. Has Peter’s pridefulness over his standing with Jesus as the one upon whose confession Christ’s church will be built, come to believe that he has more power and authority than he truly has? Is Peter not willing to hear the truth? Is Peter simply misunderstanding in choosing to reject Christ’s words? His response shows that he has not had as much revelation about Christ as he thought he did. He is operating not out of belief in Jesus in this exchange, but out of self- interest…… “Jesus, you are talking about dreadful things….people would never do such a thing to you….you mustn’t talk that way……Teacher, we need you and want you with us…..these things are such a downer! You’re just tired. People would never come against you that way.” Can’t you just hear Peter dismissing such revelations from Jesus? After all, crowds are gathering everywhere to marvel at Jesus’ teaching, seeking and receiving healing. Jesus has shown incredible ability to deal with any challenge they faced. He calms storms. He feeds crowds. He heals the sick. He raises the dead. Surely he could avoid suffering and death! Peter chided him for such moribund talk.
Jesus did not attempt to persuade Peter further. He cut Peter off in mid-sentence and pointed to the source of Peter’s words…..the influence of satan, a hindrance to Jesus! How that must have shocked and stung Peter’s heart and mind. Peter is acting out of self-interest for himself and the disciples, not out of an understanding of the true mission of Christ or a desire to be obedient to Christ….not out of faith in the one he had just recently called “Christ, the Son of the Living God.” When we act out of a desire to have our own needs met, our own wishes fulfilled, our own understanding affirmed, our own wisdom accepted……we are in direct opposition to Christ. Immediately, Jesus says to them (and to us), “If any person would come after me, he must deny himself…….” We must surrender “self”, that which arises out of our own desire to understand and have things according to what we want, instead of what God has spoken.
How many times do we yield to self-interest motivation instead of seeking God’s will? How often do we assume that we know what is best and miss the truth that is right in front of us? Arrogance, pride, self-will, rebuking God for speaking the truth, denying what Christ has done or is doing, assuming that we know better…….
Such thoughts and actions come from a place that is entirely opposed to Christ.
1 John 2:22 “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”
2 John 1:7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
1 John 4:3 “…and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.”
Jesus knew the hearts and minds of people. He could see the motivation of their hearts that led to their words and actions. And he knew where such things came from.
Pogo’s words in cartoon-world were spoken to illumine the reality that the damage to his world, in his case the litter in his Okeefenokee Swamp home, was the result of his own and his other neighboring inhabitants’ carelessness as they sought to get and enjoy the things they wanted. But the concept is equally true for Peter and each of us.
The litter in our hearts is the result of the debris from our own unrealized selfish demands of life and others to meet our own emotional and ego needs instead of finding them in the truth of who Christ is and what he came to accomplish on our behalf. . In truth, our motives are no different than satan’s. We have given ourselves over to the pride, selfishness, arrogance, and defiance that led to satan’s fall, and will be the cause of our own, as well.