And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 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.”
(Matthew 16:22-23 ESV)
After hearing Jesus predict that He would be mistreated and killed by the Jewish authorities, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. The disciples had been taught from their youth that the Messiah would come in power, glory, and conquest. Those words from Jesus did not fit these expectations they had of the Messiah.
While the disciples recognized Jesus as the Messiah, they were still far from understanding God’s plan of redemption, which included the Messiah’s death as explained in the Old Testament hundreds of years before [Isaiah 50:6, 53:12; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 22, 16:10 et. al].
So Peter’s words were in opposition to God’s plan. Peter, who a moment before had spoke as a messenger of God, was now speaking as a messenger of Satan. It’s not that Peter chose to speak for Satan or that his intentions were evil. He simply looked at the situation from a human perspective, not from God’s, and as a result was being used as an instrument of Satan.
Satan had tried to get Jesus to escape the cross during Jesus’ wilderness temptation [Luke 4:1-12]. At that time he was unsuccessful. But he didn’t simply give up. He continued to find opportune times to tempt Jesus to short-cut God’s plan [Luke 4:13]. This was one of several.
Satan’s main tactic is appeal to our pride, convincing us we know more than God. But that is never true [Isaiah 55:8]. When we think we know more than God we will act according to our own plans, not God’s. This is exactly why the world is a mess. The problems on this earth are multiplying because our so-called “solutions” don’t solve anything; they only create more problems that we can’t solve.
Peter’s intentions were sincere. He honestly thought he had Jesus’ best interests in mind. But God knew better. God actually solved our sin problem by sending Jesus to the cross. Peter’s solution would have solved nothing.
Sincerity is not enough. A sincere heart coupled with having our mind set on the things of man rather than on the things of God, leads to disaster. If Jesus had followed Peter’s advice He would have avoided the cross, but that would have done infinitely more harm than good. Without the cross no one can have their sins forgiven. And if no one has their sins forgiven, then everyone ends up in hell for all eternity. Peter did not yet understand that.
Peter, like all of us, was an imperfect man with imperfect understanding. He thought he understood more than he did. But God knew what He was doing. He always does.
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