24th Sunday Ordinary Time – Go. Behind Me. Satan.
The tone we hear in Jesus’ rebuke of Peter can open for each of us the mystery of our lives. Is Jesus raging? Does Jesus blame & shame? Did Jesus drop-kick Peter to the ditch? What’s the tone and attitude you hear? Loving? Bored? Frustrated? Whatever.
It could reveal the inner critic that lurks in the shadows of our lives. “You idiot! Stupid! What the…! ” Recognize that voice?
Let’s step back to get perspective on this saying by looking at the Greek, satanas. First off, here is the immediate context of the word Jesus gave to Peter:
Mark 8:33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Mark uses the term, “Satan,” to refer to anyone who opposes Jesus’ mission in this world or who tempts him, tests him to forsake his Way, the Way of Wisdom. Therefore, Jesus acknowledges Peter publicly as his Tempter.
Mark also uses the Greek, opiso mou, “behind me,” to indicate the rightful place of any and all disciples. Peter was getting out in front of Jesus to teach him. “No, no, no NO! Peter, you are merely a student here. And this is your teachable moment. Take up your rightful place and I will show you the Way to Life to call you from the way your are on, the Way of Folly.” Amazing.
Finally, Mark uses the verb, “hupago,” “to go,” to send Peter on mission! Jesus did not merely put him in his place. Instead, he gave him his mission to learn. He had already sent the Twelve out to teach. Now he sends Peter and all on mission to be taught. Notice:
Mark 1:43–45 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Mark 2:10–12 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them…
Mark 5:18f As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”
Mark 6:37f But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
Mark 7:28f But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.”
Mark 10:21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” [Yikes!]
Mark 10:50–52 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 11:2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.
Mark 14:13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him…
Mark 14:19–21 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
Mark 16:7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
The 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus said something like this: A Jesuit is a sinner, beloved by God, and sent on mission.
Jesus does not throw us under the bus for sinning. We do that ourselves and usually miss the call to return to him as students-on-mission. What would it be like to listen for Jesus’ voice today in that very way?