Peter loved Jesus. Perhaps he was one of his most devoted and enthusiastic supporters, walking on water, swearing he would never deny Jesus and more. So when Jesus told his disciples plainly that he must suffer many things, be rejected by the religious leadership, must be killed and raised on the third day, Peter took Jesus aside. And rebuked him.
Jesus returned the rebuke. “Get behind me Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mk 8:33).
I’m sure Peter was hurt. Being called Satan (or the meaning of it–adversary) by Jesus? Rebuked by him? Being told he didn’t have the things of God in mind but the things of man? Peter was looking out for his friend. This I’m sure felt like a slap in the face. Not in unkindness, but as a hard truth.
It’s our nature to desire comfort. To believe God wants only good things for us and not hard things. Not cruel things. Not injustices or death.
But Jesus had already dealt with this for 40 days (Mt 4:1-11). In the desert satan continually tempted him to take shortcuts away from the horror of the cross. Not just the physical horror but the horror of becoming sin, taking the punishment of all humanity on himself and being separated from the Father (2 Cor 5:21). The temptation was real. But Jesus by the grace of God overcame.
And now here was Jesus’ friend Peter, inadvertently tempting him again to take a different way. Peter wasn’t intentionally trying to detract him from his purpose, he just didn’t understand. But the desires of friends are powerful influences in our life.
Jesus saw it for what it was. Another temptation by satan to lure him away from the cross. It is the “things of men” to want the God life without suffering. But the way of love has very raw, deep, and painful suffering. This was the path of Jesus. And the necessary path to fulfill God’s way to deal with sin through truth and justice.
Peter could have hardened his heart at this point but he didn’t. And Jesus could have stopped with Peter’s rebuke but he didn’t. He continued on.
“If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross and follow me…”
The Christian life of love guarantees suffering. This is the example of Jesus and what we read in Scripture (Php 3:10; 2 Tim 3:12). There are no shortcuts.