The life of Peter is a great example of the need to grow as disciples. In the gospels we constantly see his accomplishments and failures, his highs and lows, but he never gave up. He is known as an impetuous man who spoke and acted often without thinking things through. At times this impulsive attitude was his virtue and at other times his downfall. In the eighth chapter of Mark, we see both sides of the same coin.
After witnessing two awesome miracles, the feeding of the 4,000 (Mk. 8:1-21) and the healing of a blind man (Mk. 8:22-26), Jesus went with his disciples to Caesarea Philippi. While they were walking, Jesus asked them: “Who do people say I am?” After listening to the various responses they gave, Jesus asked them in a more direct way: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” While others kept silent, without stuttering Peter responded: “You are the Messiah.” This declaration made by Peter marks one of the highest points in his life as a disciple. He gave the correct response and did so demonstrating his faith. We might imagine that the Master put a star on his forehead that day.
However, only moments later when Jesus began to tell them that it was necessary for him to suffer and die, Peter took a step backward. Peter took Jesus aside and started to rebuke him (v. 32). It almost seems incredible but it’s as if Peter was trying to convince Jesus not to be so pessimistic about his own future. The disciple scolding the teacher! In response, Jesus rebukes him in front of the rest with some harsh words. He tells him:
“Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
As incredible as it might seem, the man who has just finished making one of the most significant declarations concerning the identity of Jesus just moments later is accused of acting like Satan. Like in many other instances in his life Peter rushed, acted without thinking, and put his foot in his mouth. How many times have we done the same? We take a big step forward only to later take a huge step back. Even though Peter’s experience could reflect our own beginnings, what is important to note is how he responded to this rebuke.
The fact we see Peter become one of the most prominent disciples of Jesus reveals he learned his lesson. He accepted the rebuke and continued to walk after Jesus. We can imagine this was one of the most embarrassing episodes of his life. His closest friends saw him mess up and have to eat his own words. Nevertheless, this did not impede Peter from following Jesus. He took it as a learning experience; an opportunity for growth. In the same manner, we need to learn to receive correction and grow as disciples. God is not seeking perfect disciples. He seeks men and women who like Peter are willing to grow as disciples.