The History of Simon Peter: 3. Personal Acquaintance with Christ

Matthew 16:13‑23  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Personal Acquaintance With Christ Matthew 16:13-2313When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And 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. 20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:13‑23)
13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And 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. 20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:13‑23) Peter had learned to know the Lord as the One who could meet his needs, as a Savior for his sins, and for his weakness. Now he had to learn something deeper and more marvelous-what the Lord was in Himself.
It is always so; the believer advances step by step in the knowledge of Christ. Still it was not by his faithfulness that Peter acquired this new blessing, but by the faithfulness of God, who had separated him from men to give him such a revelation. It was the Father, not flesh and blood, who had revealed these things to him (v. 17) Introduced by the Father to the center of blessing, Peter was set in the presence of the living God. He recognized in the Son of man Christ, the object of all the promises, and to whom all the counsels of God were attached, but this Christ was the Son of the living God. He was not only the Man born into the world whom God had declared His Son in saying, "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee;" but He was the Son of the living God. He possessed a power of life which belonged to God only, and all the fullness of which was found in Christ.
Those from whom Peter had been separated for the reception of this glorious revelation were utterly ignorant of the majesty of Jesus. For them He was only Joseph's son, or, at the most, one of the prophets. They found themselves in the presence of this majesty which was unknown to them; for there must be a revelation from the Father for that. Henceforth Peter knew the Savior in His personal glory, the source and center of every blessing; moreover, Simon son of Jonas was pronounced "blessed " by Jesus Himself. Heaven was opened to him, and he possessed happiness with which nothing could compare.*
(* I would here remark that this paper does not deal with the way in which Peter laid hold of the things revealed to him, but of the scope of these revelations. In reality Peter and his companions only understood and enjoyed these things after the gift of the Holy Spirit.)
But the Father could not reveal the personal glory of His Son to Simon without the Son revealing how this glory was connected with the individual and collective blessing of the redeemed. "And I say also unto thee." Christ also made known to him what flowed from His character as Son of the living God.
First, " Thou art Peter;" as the Father has revealed My name to thee, I will make known to thee thine own. Individually and collectively (i.e., together with all believers) thou hast a place in the edifice which is to be founded on this revelation.
Secondly, the foundation of this edifice being henceforth known, (it was to be laid later in the declaration of the Son of God with power, fruit of the resurrection from amongst the dead), the Lord declares that He will build on Himself this Church of which Peter is a living stone. " I will build My Church." It was to be the Church of Christ, to belong to Him, the object of His interest and affection. For us it is an accomplished fact; the Church exists and belongs to Him.
And you, dear readers, do you share in some measure the interest and the thoughts of Christ for His Church?
There are, thank God, Christian hearts which enter into them, if feebly, and which, in spite of its ruin, are capable of comprehending its beauty, because they see it as the Savior sees it, and estimate it at the price with which He acquired it, saying, as the Spirit of old said of Israel, " He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither seen perverseness in Israel."
This foundation, a Christ risen and exalted in heaven, gives to the Church a heavenly character. Built, without doubt, on earth, her foundation is in heaven, beyond the gates of hades. She is there already. The power of death, destroyed by a risen Christ who holds the keys of death and of hades, cannot and never shall prevail against her.
Thirdly, in virtue of this declaration, a new dispensation was to be inaugurated. Israel was to be replaced by the kingdom of heaven, of which Peter was to have the keys; he was to be called to introduce Jews and Gentiles into a new sphere of blessing on earth. In virtue of the revelation of the Son of the living God, there was to be, in this world, a ground on which there would be a profession of belonging to Him. Peter was to be, as we shall see in the Acts, the instrument for the introduction into this blessed profession. He would have, so to speak, the external and internal administration of the kingdom, the keys, and the power to bind and loose. Personal acquaintance with Christ opens Peter's eyes to every circle of blessing; he is placed in the center of blessing, which is Christ, to contemplate the immense domain depending on it. Israel's connection with an earthly Messiah was over. (v. 20) Later on this relationship will be renewed, but from this moment the Lord revealed to His disciples a total change in their hopes and position, which from being earthly were to become heavenly.
What glorious truths and precious privileges were contained in the revelation made to Peter But here we find a new and unexpected revelation; these privileges are consequent on the death of Christ, which acquired them for us; and in order to have them, we must accept the cross. " From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must... suffer many things... and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (v. 21) Peter could not accept the fact that Christ must needs undergo such reproach. Could He not accomplish His glorious ends without dying? The disciple took his Master aside, and began to rebuke Him, saying, " Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee." There was natural affection for Christ in this speech, but it also showed that Peter had not understood or appreciated the revelation imparted to him, and which is only ours at this price. More than this, his words denoted that he would not have such a degradation either for a Christ who promised him such advantages, or for himself who with the twelve formed the retinue of the Messiah.
But if in some measure we perceive the human motives which actuated Peter in rebuking Jesus, he did not suspect that Satan was making use of him to endeavor to put a stumbling-block in Christ's pathway. Satan's most dangerous instruments are believers who, possessing the truth, and perhaps enjoying it, yet fear the reproach and enmity of the world.
To shun the cross is to deny Christianity, and it is the tendency of all our hearts naturally. Our intercourse with the world proves it only too well. It tolerates us when we venture to speak of future events, or of those truths which do not touch the very sources of Christianity; but if we speak of the cross, and the blood of Christ, it despises us. We do not like that, for we want to escape reproach, and so we deserve the Lord's severe rebuke.
What a humiliation for Peter to fall from the height of such revelations, to be convicted of playing the part of the enemy towards Christ He, who had confessed the Son of the living God, who was a future living stone of the Church, who was invested with the authority of the kingdom, had to hear it said to him by the Master whom he loved, " Get thee behind Me, Satan."
But what folly too it was to come and rebuke the Son of the living God, and suggest to Him what He had to do. Ah! Peter little knew himself or Him whom the Father had just revealed to him.
The whole of this account unveils what the flesh is in the believer, seen in its best light, and with its best intentions. It shrinks from reproach, it is an offense to Christ, and Satan can be identified with it. After having been brought into the presence of the living God, Peter learns that his natural thoughts are not on the things of God, but on those of men. This word says all; the things of men are those over which Satan has the upper hand. Man and Satan are in perfect unison Come After Me Matthew 16:24-2824Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:24‑28)
24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:24‑28) The disciples are here called to come after Christ. In order to come after Him there must be the two things which we have had in the preceding chapter-personal acquaintance with Christ, and the knowledge of the cross. Peter had received the first, and he shunned the second. But the cross alone removes every hindrance to following Christ. It is our starting-point, our first step in the Christian pathway; for the believer cannot take a single step unless he starts from the foot of the cross. This upsets all our natural thoughts, all the religious teaching of the day, which amounts to this: Take the first step towards Christ, give up your sins, consecrate yourself to God, and His grace will help you. God never framed such language, as the outset of Peter's history proves. Scripture teaches us that God has taken the first step towards man, and that this first step led the Savior to the cross, by which alone man can begin to be pleasing to Him.
Such then is our starting-point for following Him. Let us see under what conditions we can walk in this path. " If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself " Most Christians translate the words thus, " We must give up certain sins and lusts." The Word tells us we must deny ourselves. This we can only do in the power of the new man, for the old man cannot put off itself. There must be a new man in order to be able to put off the old, and say, "I am crucified with Christ; and I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." The flesh has no more rights or place for the new man; he reckons himself dead. The consequence is that only the Christian can give up all. What are fleshly habits and lusts to the new man? For remark, it is no question of making an effort over oneself to get rid of one's chains. What delivers us is the knowledge of a judgment passed on us at the cross, and of the new place of a man in Christ. The struggle between the two natures follows. To deny oneself is to do what Christ has done, only to us in a different way; for in Him there was no old man to judge. He walked in the absolute power of the new man; for He was, like the heifer, without spot, upon which never came yoke. (Num. 19) But Christ as man had a perfect will. He gave it up entirely. He said, " Not My will, but Thine be done." Christ had rights, and He gave them up. He had all power, and He was crucified in weakness. Having entered the scene surrendering Himself, He left it with the same absolute surrender, consummated in the gift of His own life.
" And take up his cross." This is the consequence of self-surrender. He who has completely given up self would find no attraction in what the world offers him, but rather a subject of grief. Christ met temptations, not with indifference, but in suffering. "He hath suffered, being tempted." Thousands of Christians think they are bearing their cross when they are tried, or when the hand of God presses on them in discipline. This is not the cross. Notice the words, "Take up his cross." It is not receiving afflictions from God's hand, but taking up of one's own will-willingly, I might say -the burden of suffering that the world offers. This burden is the more real and heavy, inasmuch as in following Christ we walk more in the power of the new man, who, having no link down here, finds nothing in the world but enmity against the Savior, and against that which is born of God.
"And follow Me." Following is consequent on the two preceding conditions. To follow Him is to imitate Him. To imitate Him is to form our acts and thoughts by Him.
These three things are necessary to coming after Him. Where is the power to realize them? Peter deluded himself as to this in Luke 22:3333And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. (Luke 22:33). He 'thought that this power lay in his good intentions and resolutions, in his love for the Savior. How many Christians think the same. They would readily say, " Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death." But this power is not of man (we shall take up this subject later on); it is essentially connected with two things, the gift of the Holy Ghost-the power from on high for our walk, and the loss of all confidence in the flesh. Simon Peter learned with Satan, by a fall, to mistrust himself; Paul with God by acquaintance with Christ in glory. When Peter is thoroughly broken, the Lord says to him definitely, " Follow Me." (John 21:1919This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:19)) And the disciple, following Jesus, sets forth, through death, to reach Christ in glory.
Brethren, let us follow Him to the end. We shall have the present blessed reward of learning here below to know Him in glory, as we shall see in chapter 17 of our gospel. H. B.