Jesus regularly pre-warned the disciples of things to come. Jesus never leaves us completely in the dark, either then or now. Here we see Jesus foretells his death and resurrection to his disciples so they would understand what was coming and what would happen. He wanted to assure them that this was what was supposed to happen so they would not be surprised and shocked.
The very purpose of Jesus coming to the earth was to establish the New Covenant so that man could be set free from sin and death. However, to achieve a release from sin required a sacrifice to be made, as was ordained in the law. But there was no sacrifice adequate on this earth, and so Jesus came to become the perfect sacrifice. It was for our benefit that Jesus suffered so that we would not have to suffer also. It was the greatest gift ever given to man.
Naturally, Satan would oppose anything God would do for man. Here we see that Satan was at work opposing God and Jesus again. We have insight into Satan’s treachery in this passage for we see that he influenced even Peter, who in the previous section was blessed by Jesus for his faith. Satan influenced Peter to try to convince Jesus that such suffering and death as Jesus was describing to the disciples would or should never happen. Through Peter, Satan attempted to sway Jesus to escape such an end.
Jesus was aware of Satan’s malice and treachery. He recognised the hand of that devil immediately and thus warned him off saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Verse 23) Satan was attempting to hinder Jesus and using Peter to say the words. We note that Jesus did not accuse Peter of this treachery but went to the source of these words of hindrance, to Satan himself. Other translations of this verse, and the original Greek manuscript say, “…you are setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” (ESV)
Satan was attempting to get Jesus to think like a man rather than to follow the path of God and think on the Spirit. He was appealing to the flesh of Jesus to lead him away from the things of the Spirit. When the flesh leads a man he is in opposition to God and cannot do what is pleasing to God. We see Paul cover this in Romans 8:5-8 saying;
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot;
8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Satan attempts to cause Jesus to set his mind on the flesh. He attempts to force him to think of the preservation of the flesh, self-preservation, by using Peter to say the words that this should never happen to Jesus. He was attempting to cause Jesus to walk in the flesh and set his mind on the flesh.
But the work of God is the work of the spirit, and to walk in the Spirit requires a person to set their minds on the things of the Spirit. This even included Jesus, who though he was the Son of God, was manifested in the flesh like any ordinary man. Jesus was tempted in all the same ways that any man is tempted, but without succumbing to temptation. This attempt by Satan was another of the temptations of Christ. Jesus walked in the Spirit and sent Satan packing. Walking in the flesh would have meant Jesus should seek to escape this upcoming death and suffering. But then how would the New Covenant appear and the word of God be fulfilled? Walking in the Spirit meant that Jesus would do as he was required by the Father to bring about the New Covenant for our sake, even though it meant death and suffering.
This scripture shows how great was Jesus’ love for us. Even though he was tempted and lured to swerve from the course that would lead to death, he did not waver. The Spirit prevailed and we are the more blessed for Jesus actions. In his actions we too have an example of walking in the Spirit. There may be times when the Lord’s course will cause us suffering too, so we need to be prepared to likewise walk in the Spirit.