What would you do if the Lord called you “Satan”?
It happened to Peter. Why would Jesus deliver such a rebuke to such a dedicated disciple?
“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21 ESV).
Peter was so shocked by these statements that Jesus was making that he rebuked him privately, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). A more expressive translation is found in the Contemporary English Version, “God would never let this happen to you, Lord!”
Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), his mind was set on going to the cross, and one of his closest friends unknowingly questions the necessity of his actions.
Jesus’ response seems more understandable in that light, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).
Peter didn’t magically turn into Satan, nor was Satan inhabiting Peter’s body. But Peter was doing the will of Satan, Jesus’ adversary. Just like you, Peter never would have intentionally chosen to follow Satan over Jesus, but he hindered his Lord just the same.
Jesus could peer into Peter’s heart and see that his mind was set not on the things of God but on the things of man. Peter was unwilling or unable to understand the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice, nor could he discern the majestic nature of God’s plan to save mankind.
His mind, like many Jews of that day, was on an earthly kingdom, and an earthly deliverance. These were the things of man.
How often do we hinder the will of Jesus because our minds are set on things of man rather than things of God? How often have we withheld the gospel from someone who would surely never listen? How often have we had less than charitable thoughts toward another because they were different from us? How often have we impeded the gospel message because of our caustic political speech?
What matters in this world is not winning arguments but souls. God’s glory matters. The body of Christ matters. The will of our Lord matters. These are the things we should be setting our minds upon.
If you are like me, your mind drifts to the things of man more often than you would like. But we can be like Peter. When Peter saw the resurrected Lord and walked with him in those days before his ascension, Peter’s mind became set on the things of God.
Peter made mistakes, yes. But his faith did not waver. Not only did he say the right things, but he lived them.
He set his mind on the things of God and prepared his mind for action (1 Peter 1:13). Let us do the same.