Was the Lord Addressing Peter or Satan?
By Dr. Ken Matto
(Mat 16:23 KJV) But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
(Mark 8:33 KJV) But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
One of the most puzzling Scriptures in the Bible describes an event which took place between Jesus and Peter. It is recorded in Matthew and Mark. Luke 9:22 also records it but does not include the discourse between Jesus and Peter.
The Background
Jesus is telling His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the elders. He would suffer to the point of death but He would rise again on the third day. Peter then pulls Jesus aside and tells Him that these things would not happen to Him. Peter loved Jesus and was very attached to Him and to think of His death was unacceptable.
Jesus responds to Peter
In Mark 8:33 we are told that Jesus rebuked Peter. The word “rebuked” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “censure, warn, or admonish.” The words Jesus used in both accounts were “Get thee behind me Satan.” Why would He look at Peter and then address Satan? There are two principles which the Lord is showing us. The first principle is Peter was not thinking about the reason that Jesus came to earth. Jesus came to earth to die for His Elect and if that death did not take place, then no one could become saved. (Mat 1:21 KJV) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. This means that Peter would also remain unsaved throughout all eternity. Peter had his eyes focused upon the human aspect of what Christ was saying rather than the spiritual aspect. Peter did not want to see Jesus suffer and die. If Jesus did not die, then Satan would win because there would be no gospel nor believers in the world. Jesus may have also just called Peter Satan because the name Satan means “adversary” and at that moment, Peter was the adversary of the Lord trying to prevent Him from fulfilling His mission.
The second principle is that the Scriptures cannot be broken. (John 10:35 KJV) If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; The word for “broken” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “abolished, set free, or destroy.” The Scriptures must be fulfilled and as it is recorded that Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world and if He did not come into time to accomplish this deed, then the Scriptures would be a book of phony sayings equal to those of world religions. (Rev 13:8 KJV) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. We know different because Jesus did come to earth and successfully completed God’s salvation plan for the Elect. (John 19:30 KJV) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. So if Jesus did not fulfill the Scriptures, then there would be no salvation.
Jesus turned around and rebuked Peter but did not address him as Peter. He looked at him and said “Get thee behind me Satan.” Let us look at the reasons why Jesus did this:
1) It is a possibility that Satan was there following Jesus around and when Peter made those statements, Jesus, who is eternal God, rebuked Satan who was present yet invisible. Keep in mind that Satan was present at the Last Supper when he indwelled Judas. (John 13:26-27 KJV) Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. {27} And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.  Another principle emerges and that is be careful who your friends are because they may cause you to stumble in your Christian walk as Peter inadvertently tried to keep Christ from going to the cross.
2) Peter was rebuked because he was looking at things from man’s point of view rather than from God’s point of view. This would be a very subtle satanic method and very innocuous. It showed Peter had a caring spirit but one that was misguided. Jesus rebuked Peter because his thoughts were in line with Satan’s thoughts which would be anti-God even if it was done violently. Much sin is committed under the guise of care when it is misguided. This is why we need to check things out in the Scriptures, no matter how caring a person is, if they are misleading us, then they must be rebuked and this is what Jesus did with Peter. He was not chiding him but trying to refocus his thinking back on the things of God. Jesus was always teaching and training His disciples, as He was here with Peter, so when Pentecost came and they were filled with the Spirit, the disciples would be ready to start evangelizing.
An Aside
It is also interesting to note that when Jesus was born, Satan tried to kill him. Then in the account of Jesus with Peter it seemed that Satan did not want Jesus to go to the cross. Then at the Last Supper it seemed that Satan wanted Jesus to die in hopes he would be rid of him. Vacillation is a major tenet of the kingdom of Satan. All one needs to do is just look at how capricious people are today. One day it is yea, and the next day it is nay. We thank God for setting us on a stable rock whereby we need not be as fickle as the world is.