Yesterday’s Gospel included a passage I’ve long struggled to understand.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” – Mark 31-33 (my emphasis added)
Get behind me, Satan? Goodness. Could you imagine our Lord referring to you as Satan (or acting as if you were Satan) to your face? It would be one thing if I called you Satan… but we’re talking about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords here.
Anyhow, as I finished up the Gospel I sort of shrugged my shoulders and thought, “Man, sure would have sucked to be Peter that day!” and moved on.
I then transitioned to the Catena Aurea to begin the second phase of my morning spiritual workout. Specifically, I wanted to hear what the Church Fathers had to say about these same words.
As usual there were some interesting comments but, admittedly, I was growing a little disappointed since none of them focused on the “Satan” aspect of story. Then I got to Pseudo-Chrysostom’s (unknown author sometimes wrongly attributed to St. John Chrysostom) take on the situation. Here’s what he had to say:
“But he saith not to the devil, when tempting Him, Get thee behind me, but to Peter He saith, Get thee behind me, that is, follow Me, and resist not the design of My voluntary Passion. There follows, For thou savourest not the things which be of God, but which be of men. (my emphasis added)
The part that really struck me here was when he said, “follow Me.” You see I’ve always assumed our Lord was telling Peter to get behind Him since He didn’t want to see Peter’s face. You know, like when we tell our kids to go to their room when we’re so angry we don’t want to see them for a while? Perhaps that wasn’t actually the case.
Of course no one really knows for sure what our Lord meant… but the idea of our Lord telling Peter to get behind Him so that Peter can follow Him and be shown the way to salvation makes a lot of sense to me.
So, the next time you fail our Lord… and, let’s face it, we all fail Him from time to time I’d encourage you to imagine Him telling you to get behind Him so He can show you the way to the Cross and, ultimately, to salvation. And, if you really want to crank up the intensity, go ahead and imagine Him calling you Satan!
Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!