Did Jesus Call Peter Satan?

During the incarnation Jesus walked the earth robed in flesh. He ate food when he was hungry, drank water when he was thirsty, he experience physical and emotional pain because like us he lived in a body of flesh and blood. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. -Hebrews 4:15

After Jesus was baptized, before he began his public ministry, Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and be tempted by Satan. There were three specific temptations and Jesus responded each time with scripture, finally commanding him to be gone. (Matthew 4:10) The temptation of Jesus represent a universal theme to the way we are all tempted to sin. Every sin involves some type of short cut, a quicker, easier way than doing God’s will. Whether it’s stealing, lying, internet porn… whatever the sin the root is not outside influences but what lies inside our hearts. The sin nature is within each of us and we are tempted to find an easier way to get what we want than waiting for God’s blessings. It’s easier to steal than work for a living and earn it. We lie to get what we want or avoid the consequences of telling the truth. It’s easier to go on a one night stand and never call that person again than it is to work on a lasting, meaningful relationship with one person. What Satan offered Jesus, three times, was an easier way. Promising him the kingdoms of this world would be less painful than taking the long, slow road to the cross. The easy way never offers as a great of a reward as seeking and going God’s will. Jesus came to this world with a purpose. He lived his life on mission and that mission was to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

The temptation in the wilderness happened at the beginning of his earthly ministry. Fast forward to the end, to the events of Holy Week/the Passion Week. Jesus explained to his disciples that he would be arrested and tried and that in no uncertain terms he would die. Peter could not accept that and vowed they would take up the sword and fight to the death if necessary to save him. That was not God’s plan. Jesus was telling them what must happen, not what might happen if they didn’t act to prevent it. Peter’s easy way out, the path of least resistance, may well have reminded him of the time he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. When he spoke the words “Get behind me Satan!” to Peter in Matthew 16:23, he may have been accusing Peter to doing the same things Satan did. That’s one possibility, that he used an analogy of Peter as Satan to make a point. I also think it’s possible that Peter was acting as an agent of Satan, speaking out rashly without thinking things through. Peter may have been deceived and resorting to violence is what he was tempted to do. A third possibility, and what I believe is most likely, is that when Peter picked up the sword and presented Jesus with an alternative course of action, Satan once again whispered temptation in Jesus’s ear. We always have multiple voices vying for our attention, trying to lead us in different directions. Listening to the voice of the shepherd is a discipline we have to practice. Peter offered Jesus an easy way out and Jesus was tempted to listen to it. The temptation was real and Jesus related his experience on the night of his arrest with the temptations offered by Satan early on. I believe he was stopping Peter from saying any more and also speaking directly to Satan himself, sending him away and ending the temptation to listen to Peter and act on his suggestion.

That’s my interpretation, you are welcome to your own. Before you tell me I’m wrong, and we can discuss it in the comments, read those scriptures again. Pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into understanding. The important takeaway from this passage is that Jesus was fully human, made of the same stuff we are, and subject to temptation. He knew the crucifixion was coming and did not look forward to it; he prayed let this cup pass from me, asking God not to let him die on the cross but also willing to seek the Father’s will and not his own. The crucifixion was not a symbolic gesture. The pain was real and so was his torturous death on the cross at Calvary. What he did was to satisfy God’s wrath so that you and I could live. Something to think about with Palm Sunday and Good Friday coming up. Peace to you, and God bless.

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