Then Jesus and his disciples went to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They answered him, “Some say you are John the Baptizer, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”
29 He asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah!”
30 He ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man would have to suffer a lot. He taught them that he would be rejected by the leaders, the chief priests, and the experts in Moses’ Teachings. He would be killed, but after three days he would come back to life. 32 He told them very clearly what he meant.
Peter took him aside and objected to this. 33 Jesus turned, looked at his disciples, and objected to what Peter said. Jesus said, “Get out of my way, Satan! You aren’t thinking the way God thinks but the way humans think.”
34 Then Jesus called the crowd to himself along with his disciples. He said to them, “Those who want to follow me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses, and follow me. 35 Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me and for the Good News will save them. 36 What good does it do for people to win the whole world yet lose their lives? 37 Or what should a person give in exchange for life? 38 If people are ashamed of me and what I say in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of those people when he comes with the holy angels in his Father’s glory.” – Mark 9:27-38
Right up there with “You talkin’ to me?!?” is the phrase, “Them’s fightin’ words!” Somethings are better left unsaid. Calling someone a bad name, impugning her integrity, calling his ancestry into question. Not a good idea. But all those take a back seat to being called Satan. And that’s exactly what Jesus does on this occasion. He calls Peter Satan.
If Peter were a fighting man (and he was) and unconstrained by the grace and truth of God (which he was not), he might have taken Jesus on. Wonder how that might have turned out. Glad we don’t know. But there is actually both grace and truth in Jesus’ words.
Let’s start with truth. We’d rather not admit that we are evil. But Jesus has no problem calling even his disciples evil, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11; cf. also, John 2:24-25). All too easily and too often we are tools of Satan – most times unknowingly, but often simply denying the truth we know.
We might immediately see how Jesus’ calling Peter, “Satan” as anything to do with grace. But grace truly is there. For Satan would want to undercut the work of God to redeem and save lost people. Satan would want to discredit Jesus, turn him away from God’s mission, and destroy God’s good intent. Jesus’ commitment to saving the lost, dying for the sins of the world, offering himself as the atoning sacrifice for the whole world is at stake here. Peter – thinking he was defending Jesus from unjust treatment and a fate worse than death – stands in the way of God’s redemption.
Calling Peter out is not only an act of truth, but also of grace. For Jesus will give his life. He will suffer and die. He will be treated shamefully by the religious leaders. He will be crucified. And through that we will be forgiven. We will be redeemed. We will be saved.
These are not fightin’ words. But he is talkin’ to us all. Will we hear his call to repentance and faith? Will we acknowledge we best not try to tell God what to do or not do? Will we entrust ourselves to the One who went to the cross, died in faith, and was raised from the dead for our salvation? Will we entrust ourselves and rejoice at the Great Last Day when Jesus comes to consummate his victory over sin, death, and Satan? That’s why he came. That’s why he died. That’s what he hopes for us!