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In Matthew 16 we find a short passage that is surprising. But recently I’ve found myself challenged by it. I’d always looked on this short exchange between Jesus and Peter – from a distance, as another example of ‘silly impetuous Peter’ putting his foot in it again. But I’ve felt the Holy Spirit draw me closer to the exchange, and send me a warning.

This is what we read:

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:21 – 23)

It is hard to imagine that the well-meaning words of a friend can actually carry a message from our enemy. But that is exactly what we see in this exchange, and right on the back of Jesus’ great affirmation of Peter in the same conversation.

I don’t think any of us would doubt that Peter wanted the best for Jesus, though there could well have been a little self-interest in there because the disciples were expecting places of honour in Jesus earthly Kingdom. Certainly Peter’s intent wasn’t sinister, and I’m fairly sure he’d have been shocked to receive the rebuke and realise he’d been the mouthpiece of the enemy.

I’m challenged by this passage in two ways. Firstly, it is a reminder to sift carefully the advice and wisdom brought to us by other believers. When we are discerning God’s path for us, we are wise to prayerfully listen to the words of Godly friends, mentors and leaders. While they may face consequences for leading us poorly, ultimately, we should know that it is our responsibility to take all advice to God and His Word. I’m not saying our friends our out to get us, but consider all advice prayerfully.

The second challenge is possibly more personal, and even more confronting. Because when I look at the life of Peter, and the freedom with which he loved to offer advice, it can sometimes seem like I’m looking in a mirror. Can I suggest, possibly more to myself than anyone else, that we pray as we guide our friends. It is right, and a special privilege to offer council when someone comes to us, but the responsibility we carry is to remain humble, careful and prayerful in the advice we offer, and encourage people to prayerfully consider our words in the light of what they believe God is saying to them in His Word and by His Spirit.