Get Behind Me, Satan!
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, 'Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God's way but man's.'” (Mark 8:31-3)
Hearing this stinging rebuke by Jesus used to leave me feeling a little embarrassed for him; as if these words accidentally slipped out of his mouth in a moment of passion and could have been better framed if he had a second chance. It seemed they were angry, cutting words –not in tune with the tender Heart of my Lord. I felt bad for Peter; both, because his feelings were hurt; and, because he was reprimanded for reasonable and loving advice given discretely, away from the crowd.
This all changed, one morning prayer, a few years ago, when the, till then unseen words in that passage, leapt off the page: “But, turning and seeing his disciples...” As I tried to picture that exact moment, my imagination threw me back into time –into that dramatic scene, as if it were frozen with meaning.
Peter was crying. His eyes were begging. He was clasping Jesus’ left hand within his own hands -pressing it against his own heart. His voice was desperate; his mind wheeling –he could not bear the thought of his Messiah and friend absent from his life; of Jesus leaving and taking all Hope with him. The pain in Peter’s heart poured into the Breaking Heart of Jesus.
Jesus’ eyes too, began to fill with tears, causing him to break away from Peter’s eyes –for, if but an instant more, he too would have been weeping. Turning toward his disciples, he blinked hard -to clear his welling tears- but their faces remained blurred. Like the blind man whom he had healed by putting spittle into his eyes, he now could only see distorted figures; lost sheep staring back, befuddled; his chosen companions whom he so cherished; and his Mother, whose heart the Sword of his Cross had now begun to pierce.
Jesus was like us in all ways but sin, he experienced our weakness… (Hebrews 4:15) He did not want to die. He was in love with his Creation and it needed him so. There was so much left to do; so much more he could give; but the looming Cross was now casting its Shadow –a life so bright was now made Dark; and Peter’s plea was wrenching his gut.
If Jesus, like all humanity, possessed an Achilles heel, then surely he would have been most susceptible to spiritual attack through the Passion of his Heart -since his logic and Truth were impenetrable. His Heart was bursting within him as he searched the faces of his bewildered flock so confused and afraid. Their faces, to the one, were pleading, ‘You must not leave us!’ And now, in the Voice of his beloved Peter, Satan too, was entreating him to forsake the only thing that could save them –the Cross.
Jesus’ battle with Satan during the Forty Days in the desert was but a preview of the Enemy’s guile. Now, Satan was using the full weight of Jesus’ immense Love to weaken his resolve –a Supremely Evil attack upon Divine Vulnerability.
As Jesus’ Heart was battling his Mind, the Spirit echoed his Word yet proclaimed, ‘For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens...’ (Eph 6:12). Driven by Holy Anger and riled with rage against the Dark Powers waging war upon the Children of his Father, Jesus unleashes his rebuke upon the Voice seducing him from the Cross… 'Get behind me, Satan!’In this pivotal moment of Salvation History, Peter’s feelings are but a speck of dust on the scale against the weight of humanity’s Eternal Life. Jesus, though subjected to Compassion’s Scream, remained submitted to Truth –that he came as the Lamb of God whose Blood would Redeem the world.