Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God, but from human nature.
If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life.
Here’s what happened:
From that time on Jesus began to say plainly to his disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.” Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “God forbid it, Lord!” he said. “That must never happen to you!” Jesus turned around and said to Peter, “Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God, but from human nature.” (Matthew 16:21-23).
Poor Peter. All he did was try to convince Jesus not to go to Jerusalem because he didn’t want to see Jesus die. He says, “God forbid it!” He doesn’t want any of it to happen. But Jesus’ response is vehement. He calls Peter the mother of all derogatory names – he calls Peter “Satan”.
For Peter it must have been like spiritual whiplash. On Day 145, just a few scriptures before this one, Jesus had high praise for Peter. He says “Good for you, Simon son of John! For this truth did not come to you from any human being, but it was given to you directly by my Father in heaven.” On Day 146 Jesus tells Peter than he will be the foundation for his church. Now, on Day 149, Jesus calls him Satan and tells him his thoughts are ungodly. And he tells him to get away! To Peter is must have felt like a slap in the face.
Well it seems harsh, but it’s pretty characteristic of Jesus. Peter has just questioned Jesus’ decision to go to Jerusalem. The problem is that Jesus never asked Peter for his opinion. Jesus never asks for anyone’s advice anywhere in the Gospels. He is a very independent guy. He knows what he’s doing because he is taking his orders directly from God. Consequently he didn’t take kindly to people standing in his way. I assert that this also explains why he was so rude to his family on Day 124 and why he warns about the corrupting influence of family on Day 96.
This scripture is most certainly a throwback to Day 4 when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert to become an earthly king instead of doing the work that God had sent him to do.
Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him. (Matthew 4:8-11).
Peter, like Satan, was essentially tempting Jesus to abandon his ministry and mission for a longer life. So Jesus told Peter the same thing he told Peter – Go away!
The scripture is also a throwback to Day 98 when Jesus sends his disciples out on their first mission trip. He tells them, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow in my steps is not fit to be my disciple. Whoever tries to gain his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.”
On Day 98 I explored the use of the word “cross” – “z’kiva” in Aramaic and “stauros” in Greek. The actual word that Jesus would have used was “z’kifa”, which means “rod” or “staff”. The Greek word used by Matthew in the translation is “stauros”, which originally meant “an upright stake”, but came to refer to the “cross” used by the Romans as an instrument of torture. I think this scripture fully supports my assertion that it doesn’t mean that we should actively seek to be martyred or that we honor Jesus when we suffer or mortify our flesh. Instead, there is lots of evidence that he is instead telling his listeners to take up the rod of leadership and do the work of God; Jesus wants his followers to be leaders, not victims. (For a lot more background on this you have to go back to Day 98).
Finally, I am also reminded of Day 134 where Jesus shows us how to walk on water. He steps right out into the storm. Head held high, walking straight into the wind. Doing the impossible. Fearless. Fierce. Walking on water. Powered by pure faith. He wants us to be able to do that in all of the storms that come our way, all of the storms in our lives. God doesn’t always get rid of the storm, but he equips and enables us to do unbelievable, fantastic, impossible things in the very midst of it. He always equips us to do the tasks that have been assigned to us. All we have to do is pick up our “stauros”, our “rod”, our spiritual authority and go for it.
In his passionate response to Peter we are also warned that we can’t operate by feelings, by sentiment, by human nature when it comes to being obedient to God. We also can’t let ourselves be influenced by the desires of others. When it comes to doing the work of God we have to be like John Wayne and say, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
Jesus is saying that we ultimately demonstrate our love for God not so much by worshipping him or professing our faith in him. We demonstrate our true love for God but by being obedient to him – by surrendering to the power of his love and extending it to others. By speaking the truth and doing acts of justice. By healing others rather than hurting them or competing with them. For embracing the spiritual life and rejecting the distractions of materialism and worldly power. By doing the right thing, even if it means losing our lives in one way or another. By loving what he loves. This is Jesus’ message for all of us. If we are his followers we don’t expect God to get rid of all of the storms in our lives. Instead we face our fears and walk right into those storms, knowing that God will make it all work out in the end.
What does this scripture say to you?