Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”
But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.”
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?
“Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.” (Matthew 16:21-28)
Are Peter and the Devil the same person? When Jesus referred to Peter as Satan, he was not making an identification of who Peter was. He didn’t mean that Peter was suddenly possessed by the Devil. Rather, Jesus meant that Peter’s statement was the sort of thing that Satan would say.
Peter, along with most Jewish people of the time, believed that the Messiah would be leading a triumphant revolt against the hated Roman occupiers. A dying Messiah didn’t fit his expectations, so Peter rejected Jesus’ words. And Satan’s expectations of the Messiah were the same as Peter’s. Satan, too, expected Jesus to lead a rebellion against the Romans. Satan, too, expected Jesus to establish the kingdom of God on Earth, with the Davidic monarchy restored to all its glory. Neither Peter nor Satan knew what Jesus was actually planning to do. Peter, by his well-intentioned words, was attempting to thwart God’s plan in the same way Satan hoped to thwart God’s plan.
Protecting someone from death is a good thing, unless it’s Jesus who is dying to save us from our sins. Sometimes the right thing feels wrong. You have to be guided by love and you have to listen to God.