From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary
for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Matthew 16:21-23 NLT
Years ago, I was eating at a restaurant with a lady friend. The waitress politely showed the dessert tray to us, when my friend, trying to watch her own figure, put up her hand and said, “Get thee behind me Satan!” The waitress turned red in the face and walked away rather miffed. I did not blame her! I explained to my lady friend that the waitress thought she was calling her Satan. That was very rude, especially when she was only doing her job and being polite. My friend felt terrible and apologized to the waitress, even though the waitress really did not want anything to do with her at this point. Whether the temptation to eat sweets was actually from Satan or not, the waitress was not Satan!
Jesus realized Peter was not Satan. Jesus was not calling Peter Satan. Jesus was just looking at Peter while He was talking to Satan. Maybe Jesus just wanted Peter to know where that idea that He should not have to die was coming from.
So if Satan was using Peter to sway Jesus from dying was Peter “demon possessed”? I don’t believe that that’s the intent of Christ’s words. Just because Peter uttered some impulsive words does not mean that he was demon-possessed. Let’s relax a little and give our Christian brothers and sisters some slack when they make bad decisions in the church. Even if a pastor or church leader does make an actual error, it does not mean they are demonic and part of a dark conspiracy to destroy the church. It just means they are human like you and me. Even when Aaron made the golden calf, as stupid as that may have been – and we all agree 4,000 years later it was pretty stupid – neither God or Moses accused him of being demon possessed or intentionally trying to destroy God’s movement. Moses berated Aaron’s actions without ever berating his motives.
But I digress. So why was Satan using Peter to sway Jesus from dying? Because Satan knew that if Jesus died, his power would be destroyed. So he used someone close to Jesus to tempt Him.
But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 1John 3:8 NLT
Jesus destroyed Satan’s works of deception when Jesus showed God’s true character on the cross. If Jesus demonstrated a love for self, then Satan would have had power over Him, but Jesus had no love for self or desire for self-preservation. Therefore Satan had no power over Him. In order for my phone charger to influence my phone with its electricity, my phone must have an input that will allow my charger to connect with it. And in order for Satan to influence us, we too must have a little input avenue where he can connect with us. Our ego and love of self is that avenue that lets Satan connect with us! As long as we are alive to self and self-interest, Satan will have a connection channel through which He can influence us. The way to break that connection is to die to self!
For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:7 NLT
Satan wants us to keep ourselves and our selfish ambitions alive, because by doing so he will always have a powerful influence over everything we do – even in the church! But if we die to self, we are free from Satan’s power. Truly this is why Jesus said,
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Matthew 16:24-26 NLT
Giving up our own ways is what it means to die to self. We must give up our ways and ask Jesus to give us His mind so we can follow His ways. (See Phil. 2:5-8)