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Many interpret Jesus' words in Matthew 16:23 as evidence that Satan manipulated Peter into attempting to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross (see the top answers to this related question for examples of people holding this view). Matthew 16:21-23 (ESV) below for reference:

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

However, Luke 22:3-6 (ESV) is very explicit in telling us that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, using him as an instrument to betray Jesus and ultimately have him crucified:

3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

Did Satan want Jesus crucified or not?

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  • 3
    +1 Good question.
    – Tony Chan
    Apr 30 at 18:33
  • Is it possible that Satan got behind Jesus when he was told to in the Peter incident, considering that all authorities in heaven and on earth were created for Jesus (Col 1:16). May 1 at 1:15
  • Well, if he did it shows that he didn't study Pyrrhus of Epirus' victory at the Battle of Asculum. May 1 at 22:40
  • Satan wanted to stop Jesus from preaching the Gospel of God to the people by any means necessary, be it preoccupation with earthly comfort (Peter) or death (Judas).
    – Lucian
    May 5 at 0:07
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Yes, Satan did want Jesus to be crucified.

But it is significant to note that he didn’t want it for the same reasons as those he used as tools did. As the ultimate betrayer, Satan made it look to others like serving Satan’s interests was serving their own.

Judas Iscariot

Judas wanted money (see Luke 22:5-6). He may have wanted fame too. His additional motives have been explored in a variety of ways (I asked a question about this here). My personal view, however, is that whatever else may have occurred to Judas, his principal motivation was greed. From John 12:

5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

--

The Sanhedrin

The Sanhedrin (or at least many members thereof) was:

  • Envious of Jesus’ popularity (see Matthew 27:18 & discussion on this site here)
  • They saw Him as a risk to their power (see John 11:47-53)
  • They did not like His teachings, such as:

13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. (Matthew 23:13-14)

They wanted Jesus out of the way and thought that by killing Him they would succeed. In particular, having Him publicly killed by the Romans would be especially excruciating and humiliating, and it would (they thought) scare off His followers by showing them that Jesus was an enemy to Rome.

--

Peter

Peter did not want Jesus crucified. I suggest that Satan’s temptation of Peter noted in the OP, while it may have been designed by Satan to play on Jesus’ love for His closest disciples, was particularly geared towards tearing down Peter himself. As noted by Jesus:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: (Luke 22:31)

Satan would have loved to see Peter:

  • Lose faith in Jesus and apostatize OR
  • Go all the way the other direction and get himself killed at the same time as Jesus

But of course Satan was attacking Jesus at the same time. Like Dumbledore's trust in Snape (over and against the arrogant blindness of Voldemort), Jesus knew who Peter was and what he would ultimately be able to do:

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: (Luke 22:32)

--

Satan

The architect of the treachery here wanted Jesus to be crucified for a very different reason. As noted in other responses, Satan wanted Jesus to fail as Savior. Satan knew full well who Jesus was.

From Satan’s followers:

And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (Mathew 8:29)

And the great insight by James:

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)

Satan’s goal hadn’t really changed since before he was cast out of heaven. Understanding Isaiah 14 to teach about Satan through the allegory of the King of Babylon:

6 He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. …

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. …

27 For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

Satan wanted to disannul God’s purposes and make Him fail in His word. Satan wanted to rule, to smite people down, he wanted the glory and the power, he wanted to be better than everyone else—and he thought he could outsmart God.

--

Satan’s end-game

What ultimately was Satan hoping to accomplish through the betrayal of Judas, the envy of the Sanhedrin, and the misplaced devotion of Peter? Luke understood:

And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. (Luke 23:35)

Talmage put it poignantly well:

The dominant note in all the railings and revilings, the ribaldry and mockery, with which the patient and submissive Christ was assailed while He hung, ‘lifted up’ as He had said He would be, was that awful ‘If’ hurled at Him by the devil’s emissaries in the time of mortal agony; as in the season of the temptations immediately after His baptism it had been most insidiously pressed upon Him by the devil himself. That ‘If’ was Satan’s last shaft, keenly barbed and doubly envenomed, and it sped as with the fierce hiss of a viper. Was it possible in this the final and most dreadful stage of Christ’s mission, to make Him doubt His divine Sonship, or, failing such, to taunt or anger the dying Savior into the use of His superhuman powers for personal relief or as an act of vengeance upon His tormentors? To achieve such a victory was Satan’s desperate purpose. (Jesus the Christ pp. 658-659)

Satan wanted Jesus to be crucified so he could put Him in that terrible, tempting situation--in hopes of getting Him to do something that would disqualify Him from His perfect salvific role.

--

Conclusion

Satan, like the supervillains of literature, didn’t let his minions in on his master plan—he much preferred they didn’t see the big picture. Jesus was open about His mission and brought people to see.

Satan wanted to disrupt the plan of God by getting Jesus to fail in His mission. There was only one Christ (the Anointed One); there was no backup Savior. God gave His Only Begotten Son. The atonement of Christ was the showdown between the Greatest that God sent and the worst Satan could muster. Satan was blinded by his arrogance then as he was before; God had Satan beat since before the foundation of the world.

The plan of salvation was anchored in faith from the very beginning—the Father trusted the Son and knew Him well enough to know He would not fail.

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The answer here is subtle and tricky for us who have the benefit of hindsight because we know how things worked out.

Satan desired a single objective - to have Christ's mission as Messiah fail. Satan's attempts during the desert temptations did not cause Jesus to fail. However, in understanding the events as they played out in the passion week, recall that nobody then really understood how Jesus would act as Messiah.

Jesus outlined what would happen (Matt 16:21, 22) and all the disciples notionally believed Jesus to be the Messiah, though not fully what that meant. I am also sure that Satan did not yet understand what Christ's mission would involve but whatever it was, he was determined to prevent it occurring.

When Satan's temptation via the mouth of Peter failed (Matt 16:23), he next turned to Judas (Luke 23:3-6) to kill Jesus to prevent Jesus being Messiah. But God being infinitely wiser than all, allowed/used these events to actually accomplish Jesus' mission; however, Satan could not have known this at the the time else he would not have worked so hard to have Jesus so ignominiously murdered.

Thus, it became one of the greatest ironies that all Satan's attempts via his own inspired actions of Judas, the Jewish leadership, Roman authorities and others, to prevent Jesus' mission actually accomplished it.

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    This "backfiring" is actually a pattern. If we want to get fancy we could call it "dialectic". "History unfolds behind the back of its protagonists" (Marx), and even Brecht's poem of the Invincible Inscription comes to mind, and later Foucault who realizes that being busy with oppressing something is still one form of being busy with it. May 1 at 23:01
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica - very good point.
    – Dottard
    May 1 at 23:07
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Jesus emptied himself of his divine nature, became a human being, and lived a sinless life. He did this all without direct divine intervention, relying on God's holy spirit to provide only guidance and mental strength, something that all Christians can do. Had he ever sinned, or ever given up on his task, he would have failed in his mission, which was to die without having incurred sin's death penalty.

In the Matthew quotation, Peter is trying to dissuade him from completing this mission. Satan wants Jesus to fail. Earlier (Matthew 4), Satan had unsuccessfully tempted Jesus to fail by calling on God to physically save him.

In the Luke quotation, Satan accepts that Jesus will inevitably be executed, and uses Judas to hurry the process. His last hope is that, under torture and facing death, Jesus will sin or call upon God to physically save him.

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  • In think this is a good answer as well. +1.
    – Dottard
    May 1 at 8:16
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Yes. Satan wanted the son of God dead - out of the way. Away from ‘man’. Out of the ‘world’ in which he was god. But, he miscalculated the effect of doing that. We know this

1 COR 2:6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

These verses clearly state is was the rulers who crucified Jesus.

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  • Then what do you make of Matthew 16:21-23? Was Peter talking under the influence of Satan here? Apr 30 at 20:23
  • @Spirit Realm Investigator ... Let the scripture speak - seems quite clear. As for Peter, yes, I can provide an explanation to consider- one that in no way contradicts the answer - but not via comments
    – Dave
    Apr 30 at 20:43
  • @Spirit Realm Investigator I have now answered your Q above re:Peter. By answering your question elsewhere on this incident. I appreciate we don’t often share similar views, and this probably won’t be an exception, but nevertheless I answered the point. (BTW - I appreciate different viewpoints, makes you carefully ‘examine’ your own. :-) )
    – Dave
    Apr 30 at 23:47
  • I appreciate the answer to the other question. However, notice that I never claimed to have a different view. I only brought up Matthew 16:21-23 because it was explicitly part of the title of the question: Did Satan want Jesus crucified or not? Matthew 16:21-23 vs Luke 22:3-6. Your answer here doesn't address Matthew 16:21-23, so it gave me the impression that you didn't even notice that the question is about an apparent contradiction (notice the 'contradiction' tag at the bottom of the question). Apr 30 at 23:52
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In Jesus' day, per the book of Revelation (12:10), Satan was seen as playing the role of the accuser (in Hebrew, Satan means Adversary, or Accuser in a justice setting) - the opposite of an Advocate. Thus when Peter tempts Jesus to abandon His messianic mission (because of His dignity being such), he is playing the role of Satan - 'you're too holy to deserve this end! you're a king!' Jesus here is teaching us about the identity of Satan, and less about Peter. Notice the irony in that the Holy Spirit, "the Advocate," (John 14:26) led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan to abandon His mission in much the same way.

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