From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." — Mt 16:21-23
I'm sure Peter thought he had the right intentions here. After all, he'd left his whole life to follow Jesus, the would-be Redeemer of Israel, the new forever-King who was supposed to fight Rome and win. But there is no rebellion mentioned in his plans-- it's all things that will happen to Him. In fact, it's entirely focused on what will happen to Jesus, not what will happen to Peter or the other disciples-- but that had to be going through their heads. So Peter, as the group's spokesperson, grabs Jesus and takes Him aside to rebuke Him.
It's somewhat comical that Peter, the Pebble of Little Faith who just recently started drowning on the sea, is rebuking Jesus. I tried to see if there's anywhere else in the Bible where a man rebukes God (for the record, when I googled, "rebuking God", it came up with a laundry list of articles about Waka Flocka and Caitlyn Jenner...so it's still unclear). But Peter was that kind of person-- he was impulsive: leaving everything on the shore, questioning Jesus when he said to lower his nets, jumping out of the boat to walk on the water. And he loved Jesus, so of course the idea of losing him was beyond anything he could comprehend. They had so much work left to do! And little did Peter know how much more work he would do after Jesus died than before.
The fact that Jesus sees Satan's influence in Peter's words must have been petrifying (no pun intended) to Peter. To be called "Satan" by your Lord and the Messiah of Israel (and all people)? That's worse than losing your faith on the sea and crying out for help. Peter has become a momental mouthpiece for Satan, even being in physical proximity of Jesus. I don't know about you, but that gives me incredible pause when for my own life, if even one of His disciples can be so misguided.
Jesus does not, however, leave us (or Peter) hanging as to why Satan is speaking through Peter: "you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." This makes sense, because I see it in my own life. Everyday, the things of man, the comforts and pleasures of the world, attempt to interrupt and interfere with setting my mind on God. If I'm honest-- I can hardly get through my prayer time without being distracted by things of the world: "does my hair look okay? Did I leave the stove on? What is going to happen at work today? I wonder how so-and-so is doing?" These aren't even bad or terrible things, in the slightest. They're just normal, everyday life things. But when my time in the presence of God is interrupted by them, it's easy to let those things stand between us and God.
Peter and the disciples only saw dimly what Jesus was doing. They could not fathom the work that he had ahead, for both himself, and for them. Their view of Him as the Son of God was limited to what they had heard about in Scriptures and the interpretations they had. The Messiah was supposed to rescue Israel, but that rescue would be infinitely bigger than anything they had dreamed. Their eyes were focused on the earthly salvation they were looking for--rescue from Rome. But the things of God were so much bigger and grander-- rescue from sin.
Dear God, I confess that I struggle to keep my eyes focused on you. I let myself all too easily become distracted by the things of this world instead of the things of you. I see my plan, and I think it's the only way. Grow my faith so that I will trust that your plans are not my plans, but that they are so much bigger than anything I could dream of. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dig Deeper: Do you get distracted by the things of this world? Do you believe that your plans are greater than God's plans?