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God’s Word for You

Mark 8:31-33 Get behind me, Satan

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 23, 2020

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, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

Now that the disciples had confessed their faith that Jesus is the Christ, they needed to be told what the true work of the Christ was to be. Many Jews (indeed, most Jews) felt that the Christ would lead some sort of military uprising to rid the land of the Romans, to oust Herod and his cronies, and perhaps (depending upon one’s personal leanings) reform the Pharisees and especially the Sadducees and the other fringe groups like the Zealots and Essenes. But Jesus did not come to restore a pure temple worship and revamp the church of Moses. He came to fulfill what Moses and the prophets had preached. The “many things” the Son of Man must suffer included everything Jesus came into the world to endure on our behalf. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… he was pierced for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). The sheer amount of sin to be carried by the Christ to his death was the complete sum total of all the sins of all mankind: “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The purpose of this suffering was “to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24).

The Lord’s rejection by all of the religious authorities was also prophesied, since he was to be “assigned a grave with the wicked” with no one to intervene (Isaiah 53:9). His death would be a criminal’s death by the judgment of the Jews.

Jesus still holds back details about the kind of death he would suffer, although he had already told Nicodemus that “The Son of Man must be lifted up” like Moses lifting up the snake in the desert (John 3:14). But when Jesus added that he would be killed, and even rise again, the disciples were overwhelmed. Is the Lord just being gloomy? Is he overstating the case, as if with some hyperbole?

32 He said this plainly, but then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, 33 and then Jesus turned back. Seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have godly things in mind, but human things.”

Peter was the one to take Jesus aside. You’re saying too much, Jesus. You’re overstating things. You’re getting us worried about you. We can almost picture Peter’s arm around the shoulder of Jesus, trying to give him brotherly advice. But Jesus turned back. The eyes of all the disciples were on him, and he looked into their eyes in response, and he knew he had to put what he had said into context. This was no hyperbole. It was the entire reason for his coming into the world. So he said: “Get behind me, Satan!”

What does “behind me” mean? In the New Testament and in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the phrase opiso mou (ὀπίσω μου) can mean:

a, the area behind one’s back (Revelation 1:10)
b, one’s physical back or backside (Exodus 33:23)
c, behind in the sense of coming later in time (Mark 1:7;
  John 1:15; 1 Kings 1:24)
d, to follow behind as a disciple (Mark 1:17, Luke 14:27;
  Numbers 32:11)
e, to follow a leader to a goal (Judges 3:28; 1 Samuel 14:12;
  2 Kings 6:19, 9:18-19; Nehemiah 4:23)
f, to be hunted down (Genesis 31:36; 1 Samuel 24:21)

Here, however, this phrase seems to mean something very different from these. If Jesus had only said, “Get behind me,” or “Get behind me, Peter,” then we would think he was saying: “Get back to your place as my disciple, Peter.” But Jesus calls him a devil, saying “Satan!” He is telling Peter, and the Devil who is tempting him to talk this way, to get away and to get back to his place which is nowhere before the face of the Son of God. This is why the very first translation option above, “the area behind one’s back,” is usually the one that translators choose here. The devil has no place before Christ except in judgment, and those who follow after him will receive the same. When Christians fall into sin, their sinful words and actions are not glorified. When Peter rebuked Jesus, he was not helping the Lord or giving glory to God, and therefore he needed to be put in his place.

The difference between “godly things” (NIV “things of God”) and “human things” (NIV “things of men”) is that godly things are part of God’s plan. Human things come from man’s design, will, and impulse, not God’s. Fallen mankind cannot have godly things in mind apart from Christ and faith in Christ, and Peter was trying to rebuke Christ at this moment. He had stepped away from faith. He was meant to be a part of the foundation of God’s church, but now he was a stumbling block in the very path of Christ.

Like Peter, we fall back into the godless ‘Old Adam’ way of thinking every day. We need to drown than Old Adam with daily sorrow over our sins, and a renewed joy because of the atonement of Jesus that covers over the guilt of our sins like a foot having covered over some filth in the dirt and having stamped it down. It is out of our lives, now, and we are free to serve Jesus with a new heart of joy and love. We can say, each and every morning, “Dear Heavenly Father, forgive my doubts and my sins. Turn me back to the path of faith. Close my ears to the whisperings of the devil, and open my heart to the good news of the gospel of Jesus my Savior. Let everything I do today be done to thank you, to serve you, and to give you glory. Amen.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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