Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."
Jesus came to a people, who if they were not agreed on what they were hoping for, were united in looking for the consolation of Israel~the Messiah (Luke 2:25). To utter the word Messiah (Hebrew for anointed) would primarily stir up hopes for political independence, a hope for a Davidic Redeemer having the qualities of a warrior-king. So it is no wonder that Jesus was cautious in letting others call him Messiah.
In this passage from Matthew, Peter is demonstrating just how far away he is from understanding what Jesus is all about. He too, was still thinking of Jesus in terms of a conquering Messiah, one who would sweep the Romans from Palestine and lead Israel to power. Notice when we read "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him" that Peter is trying to convince Jesus to see it his way. The revelation that Jesus was to face suffering and a violent death shocked all of the disciples; this is not what they expected.
Jesus', "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns" speaks to his deep conviction of who he believed himself to be and to what he was calling his disciples to live. He would not be deterred. Jesus' call was one of commitment, radical obedience, and a new way of life; his was not a call to join the Zealot underground in order to overthrow Roman rule. His kingdom was not of this world. His road was not paved in glory, like that of a conquering king; rather, as a suffering servant. His road was one of humility and meekness and he was headed for the cross.
In this interchange, Jesus calls Peter-Satan because he is acting like Satan. Satan literally means the Adversary. Peter was urging Jesus to compromise who he was, to stop listening to God's movement within, and avoid the path that was leading to the cross; echoing Jesus earlier experience of Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus would have none of it.
Peter surely spoke as he did only because he loved Jesus so much that he could not bear to think of him walking that dreadful path and dying that awful death. However, if he believed that Jesus was the Messiah, he must come to know what kind of Messiah he was; if he still wanted to follow Jesus, he must clearly realize what kind of leader he was following, and what lay at the end of the road he was pursuing. Though so difficult for Peter to accept and understand-for Jesus, there was no compromise, there was no other way.
What kind of Messiah is Jesus of Nazareth?
How does Jesus view the suffering that lays ahead?
What is God calling you to do or be without compromise?