“Get thee Behind Me, Satan”
that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his
disciples, how that he must go unto
In this passage of Holy Scripture there are some deep mysteries and profound spiritual truths that need to be both carefully studied and laid to heart. Here we see the eternal God talking about a death he must die, a faithful disciple of Christ rebuking his Master, the Lord Jesus calling one of his beloved servants “Satan,” the necessity of self-denial and commitment to Christ, the incomparable value of our souls, the second advent of our Lord and the judgment that shall accompany it, and the spiritual reign and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without question, in these verses there are some things hard to be understood. May God the Holy Spirit, who inspired Matthew to write these things, be our teacher as we study them.
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (v. 21). — First, we see that as a Man, as our Mediator and Substitute, as Jehovah’s Servant, there are some things that the Lord Jesus Christ must do.
As God, it could never be written, “He must.”
But as the Surety of the covenant, in order to fulfil
the terms of the covenant, because he is Jehovah’s voluntary Servant, there
are some things that the Scriptures declare the Lord Jesus Christ “must”
do. He told his parents that he must be about his Father’s business (Luke ). He said, “I come
to do thy will, O my God.” He said to his disciples, “My meat is to do
the will of him that sent me.” He told a chosen sinner, at the appointed
time of mercy, “I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). He must do so
because the time had come when that chosen sinner must be called and saved by
his omnipotent grace (Ps. 110:3; John ). We read in John 4:4
that “he must needs go through
Here our Lord told his disciples that he must go up to Jerusalem, suffer, and die, and rise again, the third day. Why must he? It was because the Father ordained it, the prophets revealed it, the types portrayed it, God’s justice demanded it, and the time appointed for it had come.
We cannot imagine how shocking this was to the disciples. Like the rest of the Jews, they were not anticipating a Messiah who would suffer and die. They looked for a political Messiah. It seems that all of the disciples were confused about our Lord’s teaching regarding his death until it actually happened, all except for the woman who anointed him for his burial. This is what led to Peter’s error.
True, but Weak
Second, we are once again taught that a man can be a true disciple and yet be a weak disciple, ignorant about many things.
“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 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.” (vv. 22-23).
The issue of great importance is not what do you know, but who? It is not doctrine that saves, but Christ. I do not suggest for a moment that a person can be saved trusting a false Christ. But the Scriptures do show us, by numerous examples, that people who truly trust Christ are ignorant of many, many things.
Peter was, without a doubt, born again and a true believer (vv. 16-19). He was a man taught of God (v. 17). Who can read the conversation between Christ and Peter in the preceding verses and imagine that Peter was not yet converted? Such an idea is too ludicrous to mention. Yet, there are some who, attempting to defend an erroneous system of doctrine, dogmatically assert that neither Peter, nor any of the other apostles and disciples of Christ, were converted until after the Lord’s resurrection!
This faithful and gracious man behaved very foolishly and ignorantly. – “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Peter actually rebuked the Lord Jesus and sought, like Satan, to hinder him from doing what he did come to do! This man, who was so faithful in so many, many things, became an instrument of Satan in his time of weakness.
Because he had become an instrument of Satan, the Lord Jesus rebuked his disciple as Satan. — “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.” He spoke to Peter as though he were himself Satan, because he had become Satan’s instrument. He said, “Thou art an offence unto me,” a stumbling block. “Thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Peter was looking at things, judging things, and acting from a purely human, carnal, and emotional point of view. His flesh was in the way. His flesh kept him from seeing, at the time, the blessed necessity for our Savior’s death.
Is this Peter? Is this the same man that our Savior had just declared “blessed” of God? Yes, he is the same man. Yet, to this man, beloved of God, chosen, redeemed, and called by grace, to this man so highly favored and blessed of God, the Lord Jesus spoke as he never spoke to any other. — “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.” Let us lay this to heart. If the Lord God is pleased to leave us, even momentarily to ourselves and to our own judgment, we are sure to fall into great and grievous evil.
Perhaps, it is for just this reason that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to record both our Savior’s great love for us and Peter’s terrible, inexcusable weakness at the same time. So great is our need and so great is the determination of his love for our souls that the Lord Jesus Christ zealously longed for the hour when, by his sufferings and death upon the cursed tree, he would accomplish redemption for us. He was, as he put it, “straitened” until it was finished.
Third, this exchange between Peter and the Master teaches us that there is no doctrine in the Bible so important as the doctrine of Christ’s sin-atoning death as our Substitute. That man who denies the doctrine of Christ’s effectual atonement, who deny the merit and efficacy of Christ’s death as our Substitute, no matter what else they say that is true, do not savor “the things that be of God.” C. H. Spurgeon wrote, “He knows not the taste, the aroma, the essence of spiritual things; and however much he may honor Jesus in words, he is an enemy, a real Satan towards the true Christ.” The death of Christ is, as J. C. Ryle stated, “the central truth of Christianity. Right views of his vicarious death and the benefits resulting from it, lie at the very foundation of Bible-religion. If we are wrong here, we are ruined forever. Error on many points is only a skin disease. Error about Christ’s death is a disease at the heart.”
Whatever we think about the death of Christ, let us always remember four things about it: (1.) Our Savior’s death was accomplished by his own sovereign will and purpose (John -18). (2.) The Lord Jesus Christ died as the Substitute for his elect (2 Cor. ; John , 15). (3.) When he died for us, bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, being made sin and a curse for us, the Son of God fully satisfied all the demands of divine justice for us (Isa. 53:10-11). And (4.) he was completely successful in his work redemption (Isa. 42:4; Gal. ; Mat. ). Whatever he intended to accomplish, he accomplished. All he intended to redeem, he redeemed.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (vv. 24-25).
Fourth, the Lord Jesus teaches us that true, saving faith involves deliberate and persevering, self-denial and consecration. Matthew Henry wrote, “The first lesson in Christ’s school is self-denial.” Those who deny themselves here for Christ shall enjoy themselves in Christ forever. Grace is free; but it is not cheap. Faith in Christ involves the total surrender of myself to him, to his dominion as my Lord and Savior, my Priest and King. That is what it is to take up your cross and follow Christ.
Christianity, true Christianity, true saving faith involves a total surrender to Christ the Lord. Either you will be a servant under the dominion of King Jesus, voluntarily giving up all to his claims, or you will go to hell. You may not have to give up anything in actuality. But surrender to Christ must be just as real and complete in your heart as if you had actually given up everything, even down to life itself. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires total and unreserved surrender to himself. Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all. Is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, your Lord? Is he truly your Lord?
But we must never imagine that this is a matter dealt with only in the initial experience of grace and in the initial act of faith. Here our Lord Jesus addresses these words to men who had been his faithful disciple for a long time. How graciously he warns us and teaches us to guard against the terrible tendency of our sinful flesh to rebel against his rule and his will. How much evil we bring upon ourselves by our carnal misapprehensions! We are all, like Peter, inclined to judge things by our emotions and personal desires. We must not. Rather, we must seek grace to know and bow to the will of God our Savior in all things. Oh! for grace to savor the things which are of God, and not those which are of men!
“His Own Soul”
Fifth, we are again taught that there is nothing so precious and valuable as your soul. — “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (v.26) — Here is a question so well known and so often repeated that I fear that few take it to heart. It ought to sound in our ears like a trumpet, whenever we are tempted to neglect our eternal interests. There is nothing the world can offer, nothing money can buy, nothing a man can give, nothing to be named in comparison with our souls. We live in a world where everything is temporal. We are going to a world where everything is eternal. Let us count nothing here more valuable than we shall when we have to leave it forever!
Sixth, in verse 27, our Savior, having declared the value of our souls, assures his disciples and us that our reward is yet to come. — “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” In the day of judgment, every man will get exactly the reward that he deserves, according to the books, the ledgers of heaven. The wicked shall be judged according to their own works. The righteous shall be judged according to their own works, too, – the works of Christ imputed to us in free justification.
Seventh, in verse 28 the Lord Jesus shows the connection
between his death, his resurrection, and his kingdom, or his spiritual reign
as King. — “Verily I say unto you, There be some
standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man
coming in his kingdom.” This text has caused much controversy
among those visionaries who think they can predict or have figured out what
they call God’s “prophetic time table.” This is not talking about the second
coming and a millennial reign, or the destruction of
Yet, our Lord seems to blend into one his glorious second coming (v. 27), and his coming in grace (v. 28). The fact is ľ all his works are one. And every coming of Christ is glorious, both when he first comes in grace to awaken our souls and in all the visits of his grace that follow, until he finally comes to take us home to glory. As Simeon of old could not die until he had seen the Lord Jesus and held him in his arms, so there are some (a great multitude that no man can number) who shall not taste death until Christ is revealed to them and embraced in their arms of faith. And just as this prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, it is fulfilled every time a chosen, redeemed sinner is called to life and faith in Christ.