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What Did Jesus Mean By "Get behind Me Satan"?

  • Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
  • 2020 14 Aug
Disgusted man with his hands held out - get behind me satan

Satan is the great adversary of the church. He is clearly opposed to the will of God being accomplished in the earth. For the record, the way God chooses to accomplish his will in the earth is through people like you. God works through you (by his choice and design) to fulfill his plan. As you do his will, he accomplishes his plan in the earth. Satan knows this.

This brings us to a statement Jesus made in Matthew: “Get behind me Satan.” This is a very interesting statement because he was speaking to Peter at the time. That alone should lead you to ask the question, what is the meaning and context of Matthew 16:23, Get behind me Satan?

One thing we know for sure: one understanding of this verse is that Satan’s agenda does not line up with God’s agenda. It didn’t then and it doesn’t now. However, as we look closer, I believe there are some other truths that will unfold. 

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A pile of open Bibles on a desk - get behind me satan meaning

What Does "Get behind Me Satan" Mean?

Before we jump to understand the full meaning and context of Matthew 16:23, let’s look at the full exchange leading up to this verse:

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’” (Matthew 16:21-23).

There are four important things I want to highlight that I believe will bring light to what this verse means.

1. Jesus Explains What Must Happen

According to verse 21 there are three things that must happen:

  • He must go to Jerusalem and suffer
  • He must be killed
  • He must be raised to life on the third day

What Jesus was simply declaring and trying to help his disciples understand is what had to happen. There was no choice in the matter. Jesus understood that if these three things did not happen, then there would be no salvation for mankind. The plan to redeem mankind would then ultimately fail and since there was no way Jesus would allow that, he had to go and die. It was a must do.

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Two men talking

2. Peter Rebukes Jesus Privately

When you look at verse 22, the Bible says that Peter pulled Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. Peter was telling Jesus, this is not going to happen. This can’t happen. He was also really saying, I don’t want this to happen. I don’t want you to suffer and die. Peter was thinking of his own self-interest.

3. Jesus’ Response

Jesus follows up Peter’s response with the words “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter unwittingly had come into agreement with Satan. We said earlier that Satan’s agenda and God’s agenda are in direct opposition to each other. That is what Jesus was referring to. Notice what he said, “you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

I am sure Peter’s concern was genuine because he loved Jesus. However, any human concern that does not line up with the concerns of God would therefore line up with the concerns of Satan. I know you don’t often look at it this way, but if it doesn’t agree with God’s agenda, then it is opposed to it. Anything that is opposed to God’s agenda is part of Satan’s. 

4. The Stumbling Block

One of the things that I find very interesting is that Jesus told Peter, “you are a stumbling block to me.” Within these verses, we see the full deity of Christ and the full humanity of Christ on display. Jesus, being fully God, knew he must go to Jerusalem and die for the sins of the world. Yet Jesus, being fully human, also understood the great pain and agony he was about to endure, and it probably weighed on him, because he was human. In this moment, the thing he didn’t need was someone in his ear telling him this will never happen.

Peter was speaking to his humanity and therefore became a stumbling block. We know later that Jesus would pray in the garden asking God if there is another way but nevertheless let your will be done. With Peter telling him this can’t happen, he was feeding the part of Jesus that agonized over what was about to happen. Get behind me Satan was Jesus telling Peter that his thinking is wrong, it agrees with Satanic thought. Furthermore, Jesus can’t listen to him because if he does, Peter will become a stumbling block. 

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Worried, anxious woman

Do Christians Need to Worry about Satan and Temptation?

Within this discourse, you see not only the underlying source of temptation, but also the solution for it. 

The Source

The source of temptation – the root from which it springs – is your human concerns or your sinful nature. Notice 1 John 2:16:

“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

At the middle of any temptation you encounter are your desires, your concerns, your lusts, your passions, and your will. The temptations you experience are agreeing with what already resides inside of you. That’s why Jesus would call Peter a stumbling block, because there was already a part of Jesus (his humanity) that was wrestling with the reality of going to the cross.

This is how temptation works in your life. Have you ever noticed that the things that tempt you are things you are already drawn or attracted to? This is why what you are tempted with may have no draw or concern for me whatsoever. The reverse of this is also true, my temptations may not faze you one bit. Satan identifies the desires that lie within you and uses those to bring temptations in front of you. That’s why you need to pay close attention to what Jesus did, which is where you find the solution.

The Solution

Remember Jesus said to Peter, get behind me Satan, you are a stumbling block to me. There is the solution. One of the great keys to overcoming temptation is to remove it from in front of you. Temptation that you steadily keep in front of you will be temptation that you eventually succumb to. This has been happening since the garden. Think of Adam and Eve and the tree. Think of Samson and Delilah. Remember David and Bathsheba. You cannot keep temptation ever in front of you and think you will stand up to it. That will not happen. Remember 1 Corinthians 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Here is a simple piece of advice regarding temptation. Look for the blinds or look for the door. Either get the temptation out of your sight (close the blinds) or if you can’t, then remove yourself from it (exit through the door). If you can’t remove the temptation, then remove yourself.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Mango Star Studio

Man on a cliff thinking

How Can We Recognize and Refocus Our Thoughts Away from "Human Concerns"?

We know that human concerns were a big part of the meaning and context of Matthew 16:23. Get behind me Satan was Jesus addressing Peter’s focus on his individual concerns. How do we therefore recognize these and refocus away from these? Let me give you two simple suggestions. I call them the Search and the Spirit.

The Search 

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Often, we may find ourselves in a place like Peter. I am sure Peter was not aware of the gravity of the statement he was making. In his mind, he probably thought his motives and concerns were pure and justified. It wasn’t until Jesus revealed them that he was made aware. You and I can fall victim to the same thing. That’s why you must ask God to search your heart. Sometimes, the only way we will ever know that our thinking, mindset or attitude is wrong is if God reveals it. Therefore, give him permission to search your heart. It doesn’t mean you will always like what he reveals, (I’m sure Peter didn’t), but he does it so he can correct it.

The Spirit

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

The power to refocus away from our human desires comes from the Holy Spirit. What I love about God is he doesn’t just reveal things and then not help you change them. He reveals them and then says let me change you. I will strengthen you by my Spirit to help you. If you will cooperate with the Holy Spirit he will shift the direction of your thoughts away from your concerns and towards God’s.

Get behind me Satan. Four powerful words that pack a mean punch. Let’s pray for each other that we would always have tender hearts before God. Hearts that would allow him to reveal what really resides in them and hearts that respond to his correction. This will help you to avoid the stumbling blocks and line up your agenda with his agenda.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Elijah Hiett


Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com



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