Why did Jesus call Peter Satan in Matthew 16:23? It was because Peter was denying the very thing that Jesus came to do: die for our sins. Let’s look at the context. In the previous two verses, Jesus told the disciples that He would go to Jerusalem, be killed, and rise on the third day. Peter then said, “…God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” That is when Jesus rebuked him. Peter meant well, but he did not understand Christ’s purpose. Please consider the following statements about Jesus’ purpose.
Jesus came to do the will of the Father, John 6:38
Jesus came to be a high priest, Heb. 2:17
Jesus offered up Himself to God, Heb. 7:27; 9:14
Jesus offered Himself as one sacrifice for our sins, Heb. 10:12
Jesus came to be a ransom for many, Matt. 20:28
Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come, 1 Thess. 1:10
Jesus cleanses us from sin, 1 John 1:9
Jesus came to serve, Matt. 20:28
Jesus set us free from the Law, Rom. 8:2
Jesus sanctifies us, Heb. 2:11
Jesus came to die and destroy Satan’s power, Heb. 2:14
These truths, and more, are why the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14). So even though Peter was motivated to protect Jesus, he inadvertently tried to stop Jesus from doing what He came to do, which is why He rebuked him. In effect, Peter had become a stumbling stone. Peter was thinking merely in a limited, human context, not the whole context of Christ’s redemptive work. Jesus called Peter Satan.
Peter and Satan
The temptation offered by Peter was similar to the one offered by Satan.
Satan tempted Jesus to eat food after Jesus became hungry, Matt. 4:3-4
Satan tempted Jesus to cast Himself down in order to be rescued by angels, Matt. 4:6-7
Satan tempted Jesus to worship him, Matt. 4:9-10
The devil wanted to destroy Christ’s ministry by tempting Jesus. Peter was doing the same thing though he was motivated by protecting Jesus.
Answers to questions about Jesus
Disciples would not finish going through Israel before Jesus returns
If Jesus is God, how can he, as God, die?
Where in the Bible does it say that Jesus is God?
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