Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine
This is the
second part of the messianic discourse which began in Matthew 16:13. It is a
tightly structured story that is not difficult to learn because it is so well
constructed and we've heard it a lot. Two verbal threads link this part of the discourse
together: "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those
who lose their life for my sake will find it" and "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?" However, this story is not primarily
constructed on a web of verbal threads. It is structured by the conversation
between Jesus, Peter, and the disciples.
of the story is first around conflict between Jesus and Peter. In the immediate
aftermath of Jesus blessing Peter, Jesus prophesies his own passion and death. Peter
then rebukes Jesus, and Jesus in turn calls Peter “Satan” and rebukes him for
his resistance to the prophesy.
of suffering and death is a complete reversal of expectations. There is no
precedence for this anywhere in the messianic tradition. It is virtually
impossible to conceive of a Messiah, an anointed one, being killed and then
raised on the third day. The prophecy is delivered as indirect discourse,
summarized by the storyteller. But Peter’s response is delivered as direct discourse and therefore has more dramatic impact on
the audience. His reaction is completely understandable from the point-of-view
of anyone who knows the tradition of Israel.
between Peter and Jesus is often read in a very objective manner. But it was
what we would call a fight. “Rebuke” is a very strong word in Greek. It was
unusual for the student or disciple of a rabbi to rebuke his teacher. Peter’s
clear intent is to defend Jesus against death; thus, his words need to be
spoken strongly. Jesus’ response is if anything even more intense. To call
someone “Satan” was both unusual and graphic. Ancient teachers often rebuked
their students, but very rarely if ever did a teacher call his student Satan.
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