“Out of my sight satan! You are a stumbling block ...” (Matthew 16:22)

“Out of my sight satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22)

Why did Jesus call Peter 'satan'?

Jesus said this directly to Peter, one of his disciples. Had Peter suddenly become satan?
Peter had heard Jesus explaining that he would go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised. Peter was upset to hear this, and said to Jesus, “Never, Lord, this shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)
Why did this make Jesus so upset with Peter that he called him satan, and told him to get away?

The answer lies in understanding the position of Jesus. Jesus identified himself as the servant of God. His intention was to do the will of the Supreme Being. He knew what was going to happen to his body. He knew that he would be making a sacrifice for the Supreme Being: A very painful and tough sacrifice.

There was certainly a great temptation - especially since he knew it would happen - for Jesus to avoid Jerusalem completely and thus avoid naking this sacrifice and service to the Supreme Being. He could have easily thought of his own comfort and avoided the entire ordeal.

But this was not Jesus’ choice. He understood this was part of his mission. This was part of his service to the Supreme Being. To avoid doing it would be to avoid serving the God that he loved and cared for.

Let's break down what Jesus said more carefully:

“Out of my sight satan!"

With this, we can understand how Jesus is defining “satan.” Peter wasn't literally satan. Jesus is using this word metaphorically. Otherwise, he would be saying that his closest disciple was literally the enemy of God.

“Satan” is not a mythological person with a pitchfork who lives in a cave of fire according to Jesus. Jesus is defining “satan” as a particular consciousness. A consciousness of materialism and self-centeredness.

As such, “satan” is the consciousness that rejects or ignores God's will in lieu of our own will - also referred to as "evil".

This is why, when Jesus was tempted in the desert, he said:
"Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" (Matthew 4:10)

This means that Jesus was rejecting the consciousness of self-centeredness and materialism. He was rejecting what the physical world offers each of us as we travel through these lifetimes, as we are tempted by fame, fortune and the sense objects of this world. 

"You are a stumbling block to me"

Because Peter was presenting to Jesus the prospect of going against the will of God, Jesus called him satan. Why?

Peter wanted Jesus to avoid being persecuted. In Jesus' perspective, this made Peter the representative of the temptation to consider the comforts of the body first and avoid the service to God.

Jesus confirmed this as he said clearly:

“You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

"The things of men" refers to the consciousness of materialism, of fame, fortune and sense objects within the physical world. This is the world of the physical body and the various issues related to the physical body. 

Jesus, however, taught that we are not these physical bodies:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28)
In other words, Peter's focus was identifying Jesus as his physical body - and not seeing Jesus' loving service relationship with God. Jesus saw this as being a "stumbling block" to his service to God.