Jesus converses with Peter (Mark 8:27-33 [CSB]).
27 Jesus went out with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the road He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
28 They answered Him, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.”
29 “But you,” He asked them again, “who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered Him, “You are the Messiah!”
30 And He strictly warned them to tell no one about Him.
31 Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. 32 He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.
33 But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!”
Peter didn’t get it. He, like everyone else, expected the conquering Messiah-King of Micah 5.1-11 to throw out the Romans and restore Israel to global prominence and blessing. Jesus told Peter and the other 11 disciples clearly, at least 3 times, that he would die and rise. But Peter could not see it. He had to experience it to really get it.
My son received some vaccination shots when he was around 5 years old. I told him clearly and plainly that the pain would be strong and quick. 2 seconds max. He understood those categories. He’s gotten shots before and done well. But this time he couldn’t grasp what I was saying. For a 5 year old who understands more than the 1 year old the emotions, the imagination of the pain, the fear, all gripped him and rendered him unable to grasp what he so clearly grasped after it was over: the pain would be sharp and quick, and he would be just fine.
It’s easy for us to question God sometimes with our shallow perception of the situations God calls us to. That’s why we complain so quickly and thank God so slowly. We can feel so sure that we see it correctly, that we get it. We think we understand it so “clearly” while we’re actually wrong. Part of our problem is that in times like this we’re not even open to the possibility of being wrong. Peter was wrong.
Peter loved Jesus. He loved him so much he rebuked Jesus the way I might one day rebuke my grown child if she intended to sacrifice herself and die for another. Why might I sharply rebuke her? Because I love my child. I don’t want to lose her. I have desires and dreams for her. And me. I want to enjoy her fulfilling my aspirations. Peter loved Jesus. Don’t forget that he tried to cut a guy’s head off but missed badly and cut off only an ear when they were arresting Jesus (Mark 14.47). He doesn’t get it here on the way to Caesarea Philippi and he won’t get it several months later when Jesus is arrested. So as he rebukes Jesus harshly here understand this: it is out of his love for Jesus.
But love for Jesus can be satanic.
When your love for Jesus is driven by your own agenda, concerns, interests, and plans and this love is not captured and set on God’s agenda, concerns, interests, and plans then your love for Jesus and the actions that flow from it are Satanic. Sinful. God-denying. Jesus-denying. Jesus called Peter “Satan.” Satan! Sincerity is not the issue here. It’s not about good intentions. It’s not about God knowing your heart. It’s about your heart set on God’s Word and agenda and your good intentions having the “good” defined by the whole Bible. Look at how Paul reminds and commands Christians to have a mindset wholly devoted to God’s Word, thoughts, and agenda:
Romans 8:5 (CSB) — For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit.
Colossians 3:1–4 (CSB) —1 So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. 4 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Romans 12:1–2 (CSB) —1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
I fall into this trap. Sometimes, deep down, I strongly feel like God shouldn’t let me die young because I want to do so much for his glory, the final salvation of the many, and his kingdom. I have goals. They’re for him! But his Word tells me dying is gain (Philippians 1.21). He reminds me that being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5.8). All the good works I’ll ever do are prepared beforehand so I don’t need to fear dying young (Ephesians 2.10).
Beware brothers and sisters. It is possible to be “trapped by the devil, having been captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2.26). So saturate your mind with the Bible. Read your bible everyday and plead with God to change you! Don’t go to the Bible to affirm your convictions and pat yourself on the back. Go to the Bible to be transformed, to be changed, to repent from the sins ensnaring you today! Challenge your thoughts and priorities with God’s. Set your mind on his thoughts, feelings, perspective, words, and agenda. Ask God to show you where you’re not aligned with him through his Word. Spend time with your brothers and sisters who speak his word to you and listen with being defensive.
The good news is that Jesus came to die for our sins and rise from the dead. He died for our “self-centered love for him.” He shed his blood for our mind set on earthly things sprinkled with a little bit of God’s Word and kingdom. On the cross he paid the penalty for our evil thoughts and misdirected love. Then he rose from the dead! As God unites us to Jesus by faith we are given new hearts, the mind of Christ, and a cross to die on daily. So we grow in following Jesus, crucified and risen.
We need to readily and quickly receive rebuke when someone, whether Jesus or his people, clearly speak the truth to us in love. That’s our job as Christians. We are truth-speakers and we are truth-hearers. And if we don’t hear when someone speaks the truth against our sin, our minds, or our hearts, then we’re more Satan-like than Christ-like. We will get it wrong. We will sin. We will see things wrongly, mistakenly, sinfully, and even satanically. But we must, like Peter, receive rebuke from our church family, trust in the grace of the Messiah and his cross, repent from our sin, relearn and realign our thoughts, heart, mind, values, passions on God, his glory, and his concerns.
Then, and only then, can we truly look in the mirror and firmly say, “Get behind me Satan.”
Question: Can our love for Jesus actually be Satanic? What do you think? Leave a comment, question, or thought below and rejoice in the grace of Christ Jesus that is greater than all our sin.