This is quite likely the most foolish and arrogant story I have ever attempted: trying to improve upon how Jesus responded to Peter’s rebuke.
Nevertheless, if I am to take Him at His word that we will do greater things than He did, I have to start somewhere…
- PCJ (Post-Cross Jesus)
- JBD (Jesus before death)
PCJ: Wow, did you see that?
JBD: You mean how Peter said the exact same thing Satan has been tempting me with?
PCJ: No. I mean, yes, I saw that too, but that isn’t what I want you to focus on.
JBD: Why not?
P. Ah, okay, you didn’t yet see what I saw. That’s fine. Let’s start with how you are feeling now.
J. You know how I am feeling. The cross is getting closer every day. The weight is becoming unbearable.
It isn’t just the separation I have to experience, terrifying as that is. It is the thought that the Father Himself will have to cut me off. I just can’t bear the thought of having Him do that. Surely there must be another way!
P. I remember, so of course I understand. I understand you haven’t yet been to Gethsemane to work through that, because it is not yet your time. And I understand that it is love, not doubt, that Satan is using as a hook to try to tempt you away from the necessity of the cross.
J. Thank you, I feel heard and understood.
P. But do you realize Peter did not?
J. I do not understand.
P. It is impossible for you to understand now, because you have not yet been to the cross. But once you do, you will understand the inescapable loneliness and terror that is the lot of every human. And only then can you appreciate that your response to Peter — which was perfect given who you were — was nevertheless incomplete.
J. How so?
P. It is completely true that Satan was using Peter to tempt you, and therefore both just and necessary for you to rebuke him. But that very valid self-protection on your part prevented you from being able to respond empathically to Peter.
J. Ah, I can see that. So what can you see now that I did not see then?
P. As I said, humans live in an almost constant state of insecurity. Peter finally found security in meeting you, and was overjoyed to discover he was right in thinking you were the Messiah.
However, he got stuck on thinking you were his idea of a Messiah. When you started talking about your death, his terror resurfaced. He was prepared to do anything necessary to restore that security, even if it meant confronting and correcting you.
J. Okay, I think I understand. But why would my death and resurrection hold such terrors for him?
P. Because humans survive by refocusing all their energy on existential threats. Peter loved you in a co-dependent way, where his security was tied to your continued existence. As soon as you even hinted that you might leave him, he freaked out so much he couldn’t even hear that you were going to come back.
J. Ah, I see. He didn’t hear me say I was going to fulfill the will of my Father, he just heard that I was abandoning him, apparently forever.
P. Right. In very much the same way you didn’t hear that, at a deeper level, Peter was really saying, “Please don’t leave me. I am nothing without you.”
J. But why would he think that? Did I not tell him he was my Rock?
P. Yes, but again he was viewing that through the lens of his insecurities. Peter literally couldn’t imagine a future where he was so filled with the Spirit, and true agape love for you, that he would not be utterly crippled by your physical absence. No matter how much you explained otherwise.
J. That is… sad. I have to leave him soon. It sounds like he will not take it well.
P. No, he won’t. And I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do to change that, this side of the cross. He has to confront who he truly is without You before he knows himself well enough to truly be with You.
J. Yes, I see that now. Not unlike the way I have to experience being without the Father before I can be united with Him the way mortals will be.
P. Yes, exactly. And so the very act Satan hoped would distract you from the cross actually shows you why it is necessary.
J. Yes, I see that, even as I see the goodness of the Father in allowing me to be tested by one closest to me.
P. Glory be to God!
J. Thank you for that insight. I will pray for Peter, so that even if Satan sifts through him like wheat he will be strong enough to return to me; and even stronger, to support his brothers.