The Devil Offers the Kingdom Without the Cross (16:22-23)
If verses 18-19 grant Peter special authority, this passage qualifies it: his authority functions only when he speaks from God, not when he speaks human or demonic wisdom (compare Meier 1979:118). When Peter rebukes Jesus, he oversteps his appropriate bounds as a disciple. Correcting a teacher was rare (ARN 1A), and some sages believed teaching the law even in the presence of one's teacher merited death from God (as in Sipra Shem. Mek. deMil. 99.5.6). Disciples "followed" their teachers (Mt 8:22; 9:9-10; 10:38; 19:21), literally remaining behind them out of respect when they walked. Thus though Jesus turned to confront Peter literally behind him, he now ordered him to get behind him figuratively (16:23), returning to a position of discipleship.
But Peter was not only out of order; he was the devil's agent. At the wilderness temptation Satan offered Jesus the kingdom without the cross (4:8-9); Peter now offers the same temptation and encounters the same title (Cullmann 1956b:27). The devil has influenced this world so deeply that the world's values are quite often the devil's values (Jas 3:15; 4:7); by valuing the things human beings value (like lack of suffering), Peter shows himself in league with the devil. The religious leaders later echoed Satan's temptation as well (Mt 27:42-43). That Peter is a stumbling block (16:23; not in Mk) again plays on his name: rock (see comment on 16:18) could have negative as well as positive functions (Meier 1979:117 and 1980:185).
That some of Jesus' religious contemporaries were Satan's mouthpieces need not surprise us: think how many of us prefer comfortable beliefs to the cross today. (We can wear crosses as jewelry mainly because the Christian symbol has lost much of its original significance; as some preachers point out, few of us would enjoy sporting a miniature electric chair or gallows around our neck.) Some Western Christians expect unlimited prosperity or teach that Christians will escape all tribulation, while many of our brothers and sisters elsewhere (such as in Iran or the Sudan) die for their faith. Is it not possible that some Christians today still speak for the devil?
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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