So what did that discussion about the satan being the Accuser have to do with Jesus rebuking Peter with Get behind me, Satan!??
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”” Mark 8:31-33 ESV. So what is going on here?? Let’s expand the text, get the rest of the story. Peter has just made the seminal confession that Jesus is the Messiah. “And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.“” Mark 8:27-29 ESV. Is Peter right?? Of course he is! You are the one who is sent by God to be the true king of Israel to restore Israel! Jesus says so immediately, as recorded by Matthew. “And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17 ESV. But there is a problem. Whereas Peter is correct in identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the true anointed king of Israel who will restore the fortunes of Israel, he has many wrong conceptions about what it means to be Messiah. He has many wrong ideas about who and what Christ is.
His controlling paradigm are the great delivering kings that have come before Jesus. Peter, along with everyone else st this time, thinks of Messiah in terms of Joshua, David, and Judah Maccabaeus. These were the three icons, the three pictures of what messiah was to be like in the Jewish mind. Joshua, who led them into the promised land and drove out the Canaanites. David, who conquered the Philistines and led Israel into its greatest glory. And 200 years earlier, Judah Maccabaeus, who is a kind of national hero, a kind of George Washington, who had led the war of independence against the Greeks. Now, they were waiting for the Messiah who would do like Joshua, who killed the Canaanites. Like David, who killed the Philistines. And like Judah Maccabaeus who killed the Greeks, now they were waiting for the Messiah who would kill the Romans and bring about the glory of Israel.
So Peter is right when he says Jesus is the messiah, the true king of Israel who will redeem the nation. But he’s controlled by a paradigm that says this means that he must mount an army, win a war, and kill the enemies. Peter is controlled by a nationalistic vision. So when Jesus in this exact same context at Caesarea Phillipi says the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again, Peter and the rest couldn’t hear the part about being raised again. For about 200-300 years the idea of a general resurrection and being raised from the dead at the end of the age had come into the Jewish mind, and they might’ve heard “yeah, ok, we’re all going to be raised from the dead….someday.”
So instead, all Peter could hear was “I’m going to go to Jerusalem, and instead of sitting upon a throne, and conquering the Romans, the Herodiams, and the Hasmoneans, I’m going to be killed..,”. This is seriously messing with Peters vision of Christ. He can not accept that, he is in fact threatened by this. Peter did not leave his fishing nets to go to Jerusalem and lose. But Jesus is saying he’s going to fail, he’s going to die. He’s going to lose. He’s got to win!!!
So read what it says. He takes Jesus aside, not to be counseled by Jesus, not to ask for clarification, for a better understanding of what Jesus was saying. No, it says And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. He takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, to accuse him. He began to say “Jesus, you have misunderstood what it means to be Messiah! You are wrong about the idea of what Messiah is supposed to do. I rebuke you!” Can you picture this conversation?? And Jesus whirls around and says Get behind me, Satan! Back off Accuser!! Get back in line Accuser!!
Let’s play the scene again. Who do people say that I am??…Elijah, John the Baptist raised again, others…Who do you say that I am?…The Messiah, the christ, the one who will redeem israel…you’re blessed, Simon son of Jonah, God has shown this to you…. But know this. I’m going to go to Jerusalem, I’m going to suffer many things, I’ll be killed, but then, yes I’ll be raised….Jesus, this will never happen to you, you are wrong. I rebuke that! You have a wrong idea of what it means to be Messiah, I rebuke that Jesus!!…Get behind me Satan! Get in line Accuser! Back off Accuser. Satan, back off!!!!
Why did Jesus respond so strongly to Peters accusation?? Because he had to. Not so much for Peters sake, or for our sake, but for his own sake. When Peter accused Jesus of being wrong about the mission of Messiah (and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Peter was doing, accusing Jesus of being wrong about what messiah was to be and do), it fed right into what was always Jesus’ greatest temptation. Jesus’s greatest recurring temptation was to go about being messiah the old way. The way of Joshua, the way of David, the way of Judah Maccabaeus, the way that everybody wanted and expected him to do. They wanted the second coming of David, just like David had done it. Or Joshua, or Judah Maccabaeus.
That was a real temptation for Jesus. We see it crop up in the wilderness when he is fasting and praying before he began his ministry. He’s praying and contemplating how he’s going to begin his ministry. He says, you know, I could be like those Pharaohs, I could be like those Caesars, and I could gather all the nations under my….but that’s a Satanic idea. He has to say get behind me Satan. He recognizes it as bowing down and worshipping the Satan. “Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”” Matthew 4:10 ESV.
This temptation comes through the mouth of Peter, and Jesus has to react harshly to Peter because Jesus himself was tempted to go that way. When Peter says ….“Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Matthew 16:22 ESV, part of Jesus, part of the humanity of Jesus, says Ohhh, I want that! I don’t want this to happen to me! Jesus has to react because he too is tempted to go the old way.
Finally It shows up again in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s praying God I don’t want to go this way! Father Not this way! Take the cup from me! Not this way! ….“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”” Luke 22:42 ESV. But he wins. Not my will, but yours, be done.
Peter’s accusation – You’ve made a mistake about what Messiah is like and is supposed to do – had the possibility of getting into Jesus’s head and filling him with self doubt. (??????). How can that be? Jesus was fully human, AMEN??!! And tempted in all things as we are!! Amen again. Anybody reading this ever been tempted by self doubt?? Well so was Jesus.
And Jesus was doubted by everybody. And I do mean everybody. More on this next time.
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.””
Mark 8:31-33 ESV