In ancient times a rock symbolized something secure. God was the ultimate rock! David wrote, “To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me” (Psalm 28:1). He also pleads with God, “when my heart is faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).
In Matthew, Jesus seems to call Peter a “rock” (16:18), but read the context carefully. Among the people there is speculation about who Jesus is – and he asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am? (verse 15). Peter declared, ‘You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God” (verse 16). This declaration is the “rock”! The possession of true insight and real faith. It is “on this rock” says Jesus, “that I will build my church and the gates of hell (hades, i.e., the grave) will not prevail against it” (verse 18). It is true faith that makes death but a sleep with a wonderful waking, as David believed (Psalm 17:15).
It was Jesus who added the name ‘Peter’ to Simon (Luke 6:14) when he called him to be a disciple. Peter means a rock – petros. Yet human rocks have to prove themselves; Jesus was, and still is, looking for rocks; those who have the true insight of faith – on which “I will build my church” (verse 18). As the early chapters of Acts reveal Peter became the rock around which the first community of believers in Jerusalem was built. But before then he failed disastrously! The next verses tell us that “from that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem … and be killed”.
Peter reacted in an astonishing way; he “began to rebuke him, saying ‘Far be it from you Lord! This shall never happen to you’” (verse 22). Jesus responded by saying “to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me … you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man’” (verse 23).
Our mindset is vital! If it is wrong we end up being opposed to God and to Jesus. At the end of his life Solomon’s mind became wrong and God raised up “adversaries” to him and this word in the Hebrew is the word ‘satanas’ as in 2 Kings 11:14,23,25, which names the ‘Satans’ that opposed Solomon.
Those who develop a true faith become, in Christ’s eyes, a ‘rock’ on which he can build even today. Let us make sure our mindset is on godly ways with a readiness to become a ‘rock’ with a true faith in his service – and never a satan.