It might have been just a casual day on the coasts Caesarea when Jesus asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Mat 16:13). Yet, this day would be both Peter’s best and Peter’s worst day.
After many months of preaching the kingdom and the king to Israel, the people still did not have faith that Jesus was the promised Son of David (Mat 16:14). If they would only put their faith in the divine identity of Christ, then they could follow him directly into the kingdom.
Instead, they thought he was a great prophet and Rabbi, but did not see him for who he was in truth.
Peter’s Best Day
When the Lord asked the disciples who he was, Peter confessed with his mouth what was needed to identify him as a disciple of the Lord:
“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Mat 16:16
If Israel had believed and confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus, then they would have entered into their kingdom (Mat 10:32, Rom 10:8-10).
Instead there was just a small remnant of believers following the Lord, and Peter declared the truth that the rulers and priests of Israel should have been celebrating.
As a result, the Lord took the kingdom away from unbelieving Israel and blessed Peter with the authoritative keys of the kingdom.
“I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” – Mat 16:19
What a tremendous power and position to have in the kingdom ministry. Later, these same fishermen and tax collectors would receive the charge of having dominion over the entire kingdom (Mat 19:28, Luke 12:32).
This was Peter’s best day.
Peter’s Worst Day
It was at this high point for Peter and the Twelve that the Lord shut down his ministry of his name by telling them not to tell anyone what they had confessed (Mat 16:20).
From that point forward, he was headed toward his baptism unto death (Mat 16:21, Luke 12:50).
This was the first he had spoken of his death to the disciples and so they were naturally quite shocked at such hopeless talk from the Lord.
No doubt, in an attempt to encourage the Lord to fight against such desperate thoughts, Peter responded:
“Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” – Mat 16:22
What a prospect! Peter trying to prevent the death, burial, and resurrection! Of course, what appears so obviously stupid to us today who proudly proclaim the preaching of the cross was not so obvious for Peter.
This was the first time Jesus had mentioned his purpose to be killed, and it wasn’t on the streets to the crowds, but in private. It was not spoken as a means to salvation, nor was it spoken as good news.
None of the disciples knew that he had to die, not to mention that his death would be the key to the most glorious gospel hid in Christ since the world began.
As a result, Peter receives the strongest rebuke from the very Lord that blessed him.
“Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” – Mat 16:23
On the same day Peter was called blessed to be the masterbuilder of Christ’s earthly kingdom, he was called Satan, which means adversary.
What Can We Learn From This
That day Peter learned never to question the Lord about his death again. In fact, the disciples were scared to ask him about it in Mark 9:32. They remained ignorant about it in Luke 18:34 and John 20:9.
We can learn that the gospel of the kingdom did not include the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The disciples, ignorant about the cross, preached the gospel of the kingdom boldly from town to town all throughout their ministry with the Lord (Mat 10:5-6, Luke 9:1-2).
We can also learn that believing in the name of Christ is different than trusting his finished work on the cross on our behalf. The former was affirmed by Peter on his best day, but the latter was unknown by Peter on the same day.
There are those who think believing in Jesus’ name, and believing what Jesus did for us on the cross are the same thing. Peter’s different responses to the Lord on that day show us that they are not the same thing.
For one Peter was blessed, and for the rejection of the other Peter was called ‘Satan’.
Since Peter on his best day in the Lord’s ministry did not know the preaching of the cross for salvation, then it would be a terrible idea to pattern our ministry after Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
Rather we should begin where the gospel of the cross was first publicly preached as the free means of God’s grace to save all men: in Paul’s epistles, where the mystery of Christ was first revealed.