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 16:23, NKJV).
Satan relentlessly stalked Jesus throughout His life. He had even sought to snuff out His life through Herod’s crime of infanticide. Demons recognized Him and trembled in His presence as He drove them out of people, and shattered the fetters of death. This portended Satan’s ultimate defeat. This was a defining moment in earth’s history and the battle lines were drawn.
Jesus was not oblivious of His impending ignominious death. He told His disciples “”The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things…” (Matt. 9:22, NIV). He knew that the hour for which He had come into the world was the very hour He would leave it. Nevertheless, He resolved to go through it all. This is one death that would tilt the scale in favor of mankind forever by providing the opportunity to be reconciled with our original family, the family of God. Eternal life was within reach, but only through the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God. That’s why Satan was desperately trying to subvert the entire plan by inducing Peter to dissuade Jesus from going through such a painful experience. Satan knows the keen aversion and natural repugnance of the human flesh to pain and death and he attempted to exploit it with the Lord.
Jesus’ sharp response to Peter’s rebuke reveals that He felt the deep barbs of this persuasive temptation that was buttressed with earthly logic from a beguiling nemesis masquerading as a sympathetic disciple. Erring affection should never be entertained. Our most severe temptation can come from those who are unreservedly loyal and close to us. Now, was Peter the embodiment of Satan at this time? Of course not. But he was momentarily a pawn in the adversary’s grip. Jesus’ sharp vision into the spiritual world discerned the twistedness of Peter’s love in his adversarial remark and quickly silenced him. Jesus addressed Satan through the creature he had influenced. This was not the first time this had happened. When God pronounced a curse on Satan in the Garden of Eden, He had addressed the serpent, which Satan had influenced to tempt Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14,15). Jesus’ stinging counter-rebuke to Peter’s was directed at the Enemy and was also meant to jolt the erring disciple into objective reality as a follower of the Lord and not His leader. Have you ever heard a close associate or family member say to you when things are going tough: “I cannot understand why God is doing this to you?” If you think that is from the Holy Spirit, think again. We can never love anyone more than God loves them. But we can inadvertently love them away from God’s purpose for their lives. The best of our intentions are often self-serving and, as such, they are often at variance with God’s will.
The response Jesus gave Peter matched the temptation: Stern and firm, but instructive. Jesus used almost the same phraseology He had used against Satan in the third temptation in the wilderness. Through Peter, Satan was expressing his design to distract the Lord from His Father’s will by offering Him a short cut to glory. Jesus had to repel Satan’s cruel joke of pursuing self-preservation at the expense of God’s purpose for Him. Jesus’ determination to undergo severe suffering to accomplish His mission drew a distinct line that separated the carnal mind from the spiritual. It does not suffice to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah while denying His suffering and death. There is no Gospel message in the absence of the cross and we can never hope to reign with Him unless we are also willing to suffer with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). Disciples of Jesus of every age must not only acknowledge that there is a price to be paid in following Jesus, but they must be willing to embrace that price. Watchman Nee once remarked that the way of the cross is splattered with blood. This is not masochism. It is just how the rules in God’s kingdom operate. This is a kingdom that thrives on sacrificial love. Its laws are diametrically opposed to those of the kingdom of the world. There will never be a point of intersection or convergence for the two. To attempt to interpret the events of the kingdom of God in the context of worldly wisdom is to miss the point, entirely. This is a kingdom whose rules are inversely related to those of the kingdoms of this world…where death is a prerequisite to life.
…to be continued