POSTED - 5/5/2001
The Contradiction of God: Part II
- John Murray
We come to the next contrast that appears in this chapter: the contrast in Jesus' responses. We might well say that it is impossible in the psychology of our Lord himself, for him to have given such benediction and investiture to Peter, and then such devastating reprimand: "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." Apparently impossible! And that apparent impossibility is only accentuated in our Lord's case because there was no sin in him. In the case of Peter, there is an explanation of the contradiction between noble confession and presumptuous reprimand, because there was within Peter that which was morally and religiously contradictory. How are we to explain this in the case of our Lord? There are one or two lessons here. There is also a grandeur here.
The first lesson is about the Lord's immaculate faithfulness. It is a lesson of truth. Our Lord, you see, reacts to each situation in perfect equity, in faithfulness to truth because he is the faithful witness. If our Lord had been, as it were, unduly sympathetic, had refrained from giving this withering reprimand to Peter, there would have been a defect. Our Lord reacted to each situation as truth and faithfulness demanded. When he said to Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee," he was responding in a perfect manner to that which was the fruit of the Father's grace. You could say with all reverence that since this was the fruit of the Father's grace, he could not but have responded with his benediction. He could not have responded otherwise than with complacency and benignity. But when Peter took him and began to rebuke him, Peter was instigated by Satan, and Jesus' faithfulness demanded the corresponding rebuke, the corresponding condemnation, the corresponding reprimand.
Try to catch something, my beloved friends, of the grandeur of the contrast in the case of our Lord himself. It is the contrast that faithfulness demands. You can see it all along in the witness of our Lord - the contrast between blessing and curse. You have it very elegantly inscribed in Luke 6, verses 20 through 24, the form in which our Lord's sermon on the mount is given in the gospel according to Luke. He turns to his disciples and says, "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. . . . ." Then he turns, in what you might call the same breath, to say, "But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." You see the contrast, the contradiction indeed, between blessing and woe; but that is what faithfulness demands. This was faithfulness in the case of Peter: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona. . . . . Get behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me." There is no compromise. The faithful witness, my friends, will be that unto you if you are his. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Remember, there will be in the reactions and responses of your Savior to you both benediction and correction, and accept both.
But then there is another lesson here in the contrast that there is in the response of the Savior. How different is the attitude of our Lord to Peter when Peter denied him in the palace of the high priest. The Lord warned Peter, "Before the cock crow, thou shall deny me thrice." He had told him, "Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." You remember that Peter denied the Savior three times and he did it with cursing and swearing; and the cock crew. The Lord heard the cock, and he turned and looked upon Peter. It was no withering, devastating look that time. It was the look of tender compassion. It was the look of the bowels of compassion for Peter.
But on this occasion, see how different! With vehement indignation he says, "Get behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me." What is the reason for the difference between the loving look of compassion and the withering, devastating reprimand on this occasion? There is much here for our instruction. When Peter denied his Lord, it was succumbing on Peter's part to temptation. It was a temptation directed to Peter himself, and Peter succumbed. And our Lord looked upon him with bowels of tender compassion. But when Peter took him and began to rebuke him, and said "This shall not be unto thee," what was the temptation? Peter was now the instrument of a plea directed to the Savior himself. He was the instrument of a plea that would have turned the Savior from the counsel and will for which he came into the world. That is the reason for the contrast between the look of compassion in the palace of the high priest, and the devastating reprimand on this occasion. What Jesus was now resisting with all the vehemence of righteous indignation was a temptation directed to him by Peter as the instrument of Satan to turn him aside from his duty for which he came into the world. There, my friends, you have the grandeur of the Savior's commitment. He came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of him who sent him. Again, he said "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straightened until it be accomplished!"
Consequently, the plea of this disciple whom he loved had to be resisted with all of the vehemence of that devastating reprimand. For it was a plea to turn aside from the highest counsel of God the Father. There was to be no truck with such a plea: "Get behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me." Can you not see in this the Savior's commitment to that purpose for which he came into the world? There was not to be one moment of hesitation in administering the rebuke!
Now in conclusion, may I invite you to recognize in this particular instance the disclosure of the glory of Christ? The apostle Paul says, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory unto glory, even as by the Spirit of God." Let us meditate carefully. Let us meditate prayerfully. Let us meditate persistently upon the revelation of the glorious Redeemer that is given to us in the Scripture of truth. Let us catch new facets of that revelation of glory. As we catch new facets, as we meditate prayerfully in dependence upon the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, we will be transformed more and more into his likeness. For that is the great destination of the people of God, that they shall be conformed to the image of him who is the firstborn among many brethren. We see in this chapter, perhaps in an unsuspecting way, disclosure to us of the unsurpassed glory of the Redeemer in the different reactions, the different responses, that he gave to the actions of Peter.
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