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 16, Jesus seems to call Peter a “rock” (16:18), but read the context carefully; among the people there is increasing speculation as to 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).
We recall it was Jesus who added the name ‘Peter’ to Simon (Luke 6:14) when he called him to be a disciple. The name Peter means a rock – petros. Yet human rocks have to prove themselves; Jesus was, and still is, looking for such rocks; those who have the true insight of faith on which “I will build my church” (verse 18).
As the book of Acts reveals Peter became the rock around which the first community of believers in Jerusalem was built. But before then he failed disastrously! The next verses in Matthew 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).
The “set” of our minds is vital! If they are wrong we end up being opposed to God and to Jesus. At the end of his life the set of Solomon’s mind became wrong and God raised up “adversaries” to him (Hebrew ‘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, even today, he can build. Let us make sure the ‘set’ of our minds is on godly ways with a readiness to become a ‘rock’ with a true faith in his service – and never a satan.