From Rock to Block
Soon after Jesus proclaimed to Simon, son of Jonah, “I tell you that you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church . . .” Jesus began to explain to the disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and on the third day be raised to life. This is found in Matthew 16, Mark 8 and Luke 9. Peter broke in, interrupted actually, and took Jesus aside to rebuke him with words to the effect of “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
It is amazing to me that Peter should be so blunt, caustic, arrogant and wrong. But wait, he was human and although he had just answered Jesus’ who-am-I question correctly – You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God – he hadn’t grasped the concept that the Christ was first the Savior and then the King. He didn’t get that Jesus had to die to fulfill the prophecies.
Jesus cut him off and gave him the harshest rebuke in the Scriptures: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” The word for ‘stumbling block’ in Greek can be translated as ‘offense’ or ‘rock that causes stumbling’ or, ‘death stick’. Death stick? Yes, that was the moveable stick or trigger of a trap that was used in olden times to snare an animal. You can see why modern translators chose stumbling block, but I like the idea that Peter has fallen into a trap. We all fall into that same trap when we do not have in mind the things of God.
Like Peter we may go back and forth between sturdy rock and stumbling block in our faith, our words and our actions. Peter finally understood and though he denied Christ three times before the crucifixion, he ultimately stopped stumbling and lived up to his name.