Mark 8.33 (cf. Matthew 16.23)



That’s it for Satan in Mark, except for the episode in which Peter rebukes Jesus for saying that he must suffer and die and then rise from the dead.  Jesus rebukes Peter in turn and calls him Satan:  “Turning and looking at his Disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan!  For you are setting your mind not on Divine things but on human things'” (Mark 8.33).  Perhaps this is an example of the sort of testing that Satan put Jesus through in the wilderness, urging him to deviate from God’s plan for him.  If so, we can be sure that Jesus rebuked Satan just as forcefully as he does Peter, when he sees Peter acting in a Satanic role.

When all is said and done, Mark does not give the impression that Satan is a particularly important figure in the scheme of things.  At most, he seems to be an obstructionist.  His first activity is to induce people, including Jesus, to deviate from their duty.  His second function is to prevent people from understanding their duty—but Jesus himself does the same thing, as did God and the prophets before him, and as Paul does after him.


Matthew 16.23


In Matthew’s account of the Temptation, we see that Devil’s suggestion that he endanger himself in Jerusalem is rejected by Jesus, on the grounds that one should not test God in this way.  However, when Matthew takes up the encounter with Peter later in his Gospel, Jesus rebukes him precisely for protesting against his plan not only of endangering himself but of putting himself in harm’s way to such a degree that he will be killed, while being confident that he will be restored to life afterwards.  Jesus calls Peter Satan and repeats the words reported in Mark about his not being on the side of God.  He adds, for good measure, “You are a stumbling-block (skandalon) to me!” (Matt. 16.23).  We could have cited this passage earlier when speaking of Satan as an obstructionist in Paul’s accounts (chap. 3.2).

Matthew may have been inspired to develop his threefold testing of Jesus at the hands of Devil by two episodes in Mark’s Passion narrative, which Matthew also includes in his own Passion account.  They



are both three-part ordeals, a set of trying circumstances that do not involve Devil.  The first triple testing is the Agony in the Garden.  Mark portrays Jesus as experiencing three sessions of troubled prayer in Gethsemane, and he warns his Disciples to pray against entering into testing.  Jesus first addresses Peter:  “Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not keep awake one hour?”  Then, including James and John, he tells them:  “Keep awake and pray that you come not into peirasmos.  The spirit is willing enough, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14.38; Matt. 26.41).

The second episode is the three-part challenge that Peter experiences in the courtyard of the High Priest, a challenge that he fails miserably to pass (Mark 14.66-72; Matt. 26.69-75).  Jesus had warned him about this twice:  once, at the Last Supper:  “This very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times” (Mark 14.30, Matt. 26.34); and the second time we have just seen, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14.37, Matt. 26.40).


To sum up, Matthew introduces us to a sophistical Devil, who inquires into Jesus’s nature as God’s Son, challenging him to work a miracle of feeding himself, and then to invite a miracle of rescue from God, and finally to take over the rule of the world as Devil’s deputy (Matt. 4.1-11).  Then Jesus tells his Disciples to pray against testing and to pray for deliverance from “Harm” (6.13).  Much later, Jesus assures his listeners that Satan is not divided against himself and his kingdom is still standing (12.26).  Devil (as “Bad”) snatches away the word of the Kingdom from one’s heart (13.19), and he sows harmful weeds (13.38-39).  Jesus identifies Peter with Satan for being an obstacle to his destiny in Jerusalem (16.23), and we learn that in the next world fire has been prepared for Devil and his Angels (25.41).