He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Parallel Texts: Matthew 16:21-28; Luke 9:22-27
Let’s get the timing right: Jesus asks the disciples who people say that He is, and they mention some of the buzz going around. Then He asks them who they say He is and Peter boldly announces that He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus asks them to keep that to themselves and then proceeds to tell them He must be rejected, suffer and die… and that He will rise from the grave on the third day, whereupon Peter takes Him aside to rebuke Him!
That’s right dear reader, only moments after acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of the living God, Peter is taking Him aside to straighten Him out! I can be pretty bold myself, but I’ve got nothing on old Peter!
“Get thee behind me Satan!” How many times have you heard someone repeat this famous line? Maybe you’ve used it yourself a time or two… as I have. Commentators write page after page about the finer points of meaning that they draw from this statement, preachers preach sermons on it…
That statement is not the point. Speculations about Satan are not the point. How many times do we quote His next remark? “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Merely human concerns; yep, the stuff we always think about. Jesus explains this further:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Most of the time, this is in a different sermon, but it is Jesus’s reply to Peter telling Him He must allow Himself to be killed; it is the explanation of “Get thee behind me Satan,” Jesus is on the earth for a reason, to accomplish a mission, to do His Father’s bidding, not to live long and prosper; so are you and me. How much time we waste being concerned about our own comfort, how much time we waste being entertained! Is that all there is to life?
In our time, the idea of denying oneself is entirely foreign, counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Do people make money selling books about self-denial? Do politicians get elected to office by promising that the government will stop handing out money and benefits?
No, not as a rule.
A person who loses his life for Christ and the gospel is a person who puts the interests of others ahead of his own. He or she is someone who serves God by serving others in a way that advances God’s purpose; such a person finds life. A person who chases after the pleasures of this world loses their soul in the end, for they have not followed the example of Jesus Christ. Oh yes, maybe it’s been quite the ride, but when it’s over, it’s over.
Ask yourself this question: Where would we be if Jesus had taken Peter’s advice? Where would God’s purpose have been if He had listened?
If you are concerned merely with human concerns, who will take the gospel to your neighbors, friends, coworkers… That’s right, what will become of them? Will we act as though we are ashamed of Jesus in the face of opposition in this life? How will Jesus respond to that?
Hint: The answer is in our text!