When Jesus called Simon Peter “Satan” in Matthew 16:23 and Mark 8:33 it may seem harsh. Today I’d like to focus on this, on what the rabbis taught, and why Jesus kept referring to “the kingdom of God.”
In my last reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls, I was unable to accept various conclusions Evans made in The Dead Sea Scrolls. This was due to many complications. But I had only read half of his book at that time. Now as I continue to read it my impressions are changing.
Evan’s work was published years after the first book I read about the Dead Sea Scrolls was published. So various scholars had a lot more time to process all the discoveries before Evan’s book was written. What was even more effective changing my mind was when Evans started explaining the complications. From The Dead Sea Scrolls,
As more caves were discovered and the number of scrolls and fragments multiplied, scholars began to second-guess their early assumptions about the Qumran community and its extensive library. For example, contrary to initial impressions, scholars soon recognized that not all the scrolls from the 11 caves at Qumran give us an idea of what members of that community valued, read, and studied. Some of the scrolls also give us an idea of what many Jews outside of the Qumran community valued…. The numerous occurrences of the phrases “your kingdom” and “his kingdom” show that the idea of the “kingdom of God” was known and appreciated by the men of the Qumran community. There are many more references to the kingdom in the other scrolls. What this shows is that Jesus’ emphasis on the kingdom was not unusual. It was a theme of vital interest among his Jewish contemporaries, and Jesus claimed to give authoritative teachings about it.
From The Jewish Expectation of God’s Kingdom in its Successive Stages,
Although the older Hebrew prophets, such as Micah and Isaiah, did not use the term “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” as did the later Jewish writers, they spoke in glowing terms of the coming of a glorious time in the “latter days,” when nations would “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” and “not lift up a sword…any more”; when every man should sit “under his vine and under his fig tree and none make them afraid”; when there would be a ruler upon whom should rest “the spirit of, Yahveh…the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahveh,” who should judge, “with righteousness the poor and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth,” who “shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips…slay the wicked”; when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Yahveh as the waters cover the sea.”
…The first writer who used the term “kingdom of God,” “kingdom of heaven” for the glorious time already imagined by those earlier Hebrew prophets…was…who wrote the Book of Daniel about 164 B.C.
The Dead Sea Scrolls as a whole prove an intense hunger for this kingdom. The oppressed Jews naturally wanted relief. Simon Peter was no exception.
If you watch for it you’ll notice Jesus doesn’t tell his disciples he will be crucified early in his ministry. In fact, he does this only after he was pressured to become king. Also, it’s after he asked his disciples who people thought he was, when they concluded on their own that Jesus was the Messiah. Because with that, their belief was implied that he will lead them in battle against the Romans. When Jesus then tells them about his crucifixion, it was too much for Simon Peter. And I can’t really blame him. Deuteronomy 21:23 says,
you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
How could their Messiah be under God’s curse? The Romans crucified Jews because they knew about this belief. So how better to discourage Jews from rebellion but to crucify them? Nothing drew more shame than to be crucified. And apparently, the Romans often crucified people stark naked. Hopefully Christ wasn’t, but we just don’t know.
When Edersheim explains the rabbis’ teachings about Satan, we have a more complete picture for how Christ’s rebuke of Simon Peter would’ve been received (Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33). From The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,
Since Rabbinism viewed the “great enemy” only as the envious and malicious opponent of man, the spiritual element was entirely eliminated. Instead of the personified principle of Evil…we have only a clumsy and–to speak plainly–often a stupid hater.
I mention all this because it’s important as we study Jesus in his context that we see the balance of his approach in everything. He knew how calling Simon Peter “Satan” would come across to Simon just as much as he knew how important it was to rebuke the real Satan behind Simon Peter’s rebuke. He knew how not to break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick (Matthew 12:20). And he knew how to nip problems in the bud yet retain, encourage and stimulate the spirit and motivation that God gives to each individual.
The above picture was scanned from Jesus and His Times.