In Mark 8:33 of the New Testament, Jesus tells his disciple Peter, “Go behind me, Satan,” because Peter has suggested that Jesus was not going to suffer as the Son of Man. What does this verse tell us about Satan, about Jesus, about evil, about time?
Satan here and in Matthew is Satanas (as opposed to Satan, devil), which (according to Strong’s Dictionary) is Aramaic/Chaldean in origin and means accuser. Devil, or diabolos, means false accuser, slanderer, traducer (to humiliate or disgrace). Satan is called or referred to in the New Testament as adversary, enemy, accuser, serpent, dragon, author of evil, beguiler of Eve, tempter. A synonym of tempter is seducer.
Mark 8:33 is comparable to Matthew 4:10, in which Jesus uses the same verb (Go, ypage) and says, “Go, Satan,” in response to Satan’s tempting in the wilderness.
In Matthew 4 (and Luke 4), Satan is an apparent being, but in Mark 8:33, Satan is not a being, but is personified by a person, in this case Peter, who doubts and denies the truth. Peter is thinking only about the present, the acceptable and predictable, rather than the unexpected, the fearful, the contrary to logic.
Peter is, in short, thinking about himself, and his connection to the Messiah. That he is willing to rebuke (admonish, censure) Jesus shows that Jesus’s prediction of his coming humiliation and death has hit Peter to the quick, has challenged his conception of the present and the future, his conception of time.
Jesus says that if you seek to save your life, you will lose it, which of course is a contradiction. The world says not to deny self, to save life, but Jesus says one must deny self, lose life, for the sake of something else, something beyond self. Peter, however, has refused to accept this teaching.
You don’t need an actual evil force personified, like Satan tempting in the wilderness, when you have humans who are seducers all around you.
Satan, the Seducer, in Matthew and Luke tempted Christ, attempted to seduce Christ, with images of personal pain and security and food and comfort in the present moment. Satan could have been many things rather than an evil being: The seducer could have been a fantasy, a person or persons (like Peter), the subconscious mind, or the conscience.
The Seducer seduces people then uses these seduced people to seduce others. The implication in Mark 8:33 is that someone or something has seduced Peter and he is attempting to seduce Jesus. To seduce is to turn away from oneself and what one believes and stands for. The mere act of seduction is evil.
To seduce is evil. But to be seduced and to allow it, not to resist, is evil too. To be seduced and to allow it is a way to become a seducer, because you accept the seduction and make it a part of you so that anyone you come into contact with is influenced by your seduction.
Seduction means to overwhelm reason with awe and wonder, to mystify, to grab the senses, to convince otherwise, to kidnap the mind and body, to imprison one’s sense of normality, one’s sense of rightness and goodness, one’s sense of time. The present moment becomes enlarged, more important than the past or future.
Seduction involves an other, an outside force, who seeks to impose their will on your will. The implication is that their attempted imposition is malevolent in nature, an attempt to capture, take over, conquer.
A seducer is therefore an invader of another person’s freedom, privacy, reason, feelings, and sense of self.
A seducer is apparently not content with him/herself, but lacking something that makes them seek to invade. They want something that they see in you, or they seek to accomplish something through you.
So a seducer, and to be seduced, is evil. But why does a person seduce, and why does a person allow himself to be seduced? One word: fear.
Evil is not just a moral phenomenon, but a psychic phenomenon as well, involving overwhelming fear.
Fear is the foundation for evil in all of its seductive forms.
Evil seduces with fear.
A person fears the future, fears what they are and will remain or become, fears boredom, fears pain, fears death. Momentary pleasure, momentary glory, momentary satisfaction of hunger, can stifle the pain, the fear of the future, if just for a moment. The seduction of momentary pleasure rids one temporarily of the constant overwhelming fear of life.
But Christ seduces evil with love.
Love knows no fear.
With love there is no seduction by evil.
However, love works in time and so it will be imperfect and never absolute.
Christ is the presence of love, He is the absolute, in time working to redeem us from evil in time.
Love is not a metaphysical with Christ but an emotional, physical, and psychic reality in time.
Love is therefore a historical process in each year of our Lord (Anno Domini).
How does love combat evil?
The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is Love.
Love is a transcendent truth but an everyday temporal reality as well.
Evil is not transcendent but found in the everyday temptations of life.
Love is also found in the everyday but it is more lasting and fulfilling since it is transcendent.
We have free will within the confines of grace, which means that God’s will for us is revealed through His love, which is both transcendent and everyday.
When we accept and willingly respond to God’s love we do so through free will while at the same time conforming to His will.
Hence we are fighting the seduction of evil with love.
What I write here is Christian but it doesn’t have to be, exclusively, because love is not just Christian and the transcendence of love, while a constant and a human truth and, I would consider a divine truth, is countered by the everyday temporality of evil. All religions, I believe, consider evil to be mostly dwelling in the everyday, the momentary, in time.