Today we read the passage in Mark in which Jesus calls Peter satan! This scene seems a little out of character for Jesus and how he treats his Apostles. What’s really going on here?
First, we have to recall that Mark’s gospel is really the record of Peter’s teaching. It is written by Mark who was Peter’s assistant and secretary. Thus, as we have mentioned in the past, Peter is notably absent from the Gospel because Jesus has learned the lessons of humility well. Therefore it is not surprising that when Peter does appear he has cast himself in an unflattering light.
Second, notice that the scene happens just after Mark’s version of Peter’s declaration at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is the Christ. However, in Mark’s version the “you are the Rock” and the declaration of the giving of the keys is missing. This again reflects Peter’s humility in not putting the focus on himself. It also reflects the fact that as Peter would have been teaching this his audience would have likely know who is his, heard his curious name and likely have known how the name came to be.
Third, notice what Peter is upset about that causes Peter to “rebuke” Jesus. He is saying that He will have to suffer and die and then be raised. Peter doesn’t want this to happen. He is saying that Jesus should not let it happen. This is the same type of thinking that Satan tempted Jesus with in the desert. Then, the devil tried to get Jesus to cast off his humanity and reveal himself to be God and to rule in glory over the earth. Peter is now essentially advocating the same thing. That is why Jesus rebuke Peter is such a harsh way. Salvation will come through suffering and we all must bear our share. In fact, this is what Jesus tells us in the rest of the passage.
But he turned and said to Peter, “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.”
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
In this passage Jesus has not insulted Peter. Rather, He has taught Peter a vital lesson in a dramatic way. Suffering is a necessary part of life and salvation. Through suffering will come salvation ultimately God’s coming in glory. Peter will have learned this lesson well and will be martyred for Jesus.