It made me think, “What’s in a rebuke?” What is a rebuke, anyway? We hear that word around church a lot, but not so much outside of that. It’s just not in the pop-culture vernacular. There are two ways your average dictionary defines the word. First, and most commonly, a rebuke is a sharp criticism. Second, a rebuke is (in action) an effort to turn something back; to keep something in check.
The pilot in me, especially given my immersion in the training environment lately, and the inevitable pondering all aviators have been doing about the Asiana 214 crash in San Francisco, immediately related this to the command decision to “go-around”. Pilots are trained to know that when we are on approach to landing and something doesn’t look right, causing us to question the safety of the approach and/or landing, we execute the go-around maneuver.  Layman’s terms: Thrust is immediately applied, we pitch the airplane up and climb up and away, oftentimes turning away from the runway, circling around for another try at the approach. A pilot who calls for a go-around (or who executes one) isn’t just doing it for a lack of perfection. She is doing it for safety — altitude is life. A go-around rebukes a crash landing.
The weather enthusiast in me can set an analogy of the weather advisories and warnings we hear about during severe weather events. A good one is “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”, which we heard a bunch just last weekend when we had 3″ of rain in 2 hours at my house, and 5-7″ in the same timeframe just to the south. The weather service isn’t just letting us know about the danger of flooding as a public service. They do it to save lives. A Flood Warning rebukes unnecessary drownings.
Turning to the New Testament, today I also read some good biblical examples of the word “rebuke” — particularly in the proverbial context of a “life-giving rebuke”. In Matthew 16:21-23 we read about Jesus’ prediction of his arrest, suffering, and death at the hands of the ruling Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. Part of his prediction was that those things needed to happen. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”
Peter was trying to keep Jesus in check, watching out for his life. Right? I mean, he just got done declaring Jesus as the Son of the Living God (see Matthew 13:15-16). He loves Jesus. Peter’s rebuke is not so much a criticism of, “Don’t be ridiculous Jesus, you silly worry-wort!” as it is a rebuke of, “Jesus, going to Jerusalem is a bad idea. You can’t just walk right into town on purpose to die!”
What is Jesus’ response? You have heard it and read it before…I bet even those who aren’t bible readers have: “Get behind me, Satan.” The rebuke comes right back at Peter. And, here, Jesus isn’t calling Peter “Satan” literally…other than to say Peter is being “the deceiver” (the age-old meaning of the name Satan). He continues, “You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Isn’t Jesus also giving a life-giving rebuke to Peter? Perhaps it was unknown to Peter and the disciples at the time, but the concerns of God was not toppling the Roman Empire, or the geo-political salvation of the Jewish kingdom. It was to give His creation life. The means to that end was the death and resurrection of His one and only Son, Jesus.
The Message translation of these passages in Matthew nails the paraphrase of the “rebuke” in modern parlance: “But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.””
Life-giving rebukes are all around us. They happen every day: No turn on red. No diving in shallow end. No trespassing. Stay clear of powerlines. Take shelter. No smoking. Don’t drink and drive. Turn around, don’t drown. Go around. They all are life-giving…they keep us coming home among the wise.
Get behind me Satan.
That one works too!