Jesus was questioning his disciples about who he was, and Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.1 Jesus commended Peter, telling him “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”.2 What a wonderful moment for Peter; to be told by Jesus that God the Father had given him revelation about who Jesus is. Yet, just a few verses later we see a very different interaction between Jesus and Peter.
Jesus was telling his disciples “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed…”3 Peter responded by rebuking Jesus and saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you”.4 Jesus tells 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”.5 What a different exchange this is! Peter goes from being commended by Jesus to being severely rebuked by him.
Peter’s earlier revelation about Jesus was no small thing, because many who encountered Jesus failed to understand who he is. But even though Peter had a revelation from God Himself about who Jesus is, he completely missed God’s way of doing things, and it’s critical for us to understand why Peter missed this. What kept him from understanding God’s way?
Jesus said that Peter’s mind was set “on the things of man”. Peter had a vision of how he thought things were going to work out, and this was based primarily on how he wanted things to work out. He believed Jesus would become an earthly king after the manner of King David; that Jesus would restore Israel to her glory days of eminence and power, and that he and the other apostles would have a glorious reign with Jesus (see Acts 1:6). Peter’s expectations were grounded in human logic and human desire. Jesus declared that this way of thinking doesn’t just miss the mark but that it’s a hindrance to him. This way of thinking stands in opposition to God’s plans and purposes.
Many churches today seem to operate with their mind set “on the things of man”. They want to “win their city” by marketing their church as something cool, attractive, and fun. They think they will achieve success by growing in popularity. This is contrary to setting our “mind on the things of God”. Jesus said that God’s way involves conflict, suffering, and dying. Some might argue that this was unique to Jesus and that it’s not what we’re called to. But after telling his disciples how he would die, Jesus continued his instructions by telling them “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (25) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”.6 Jesus’ cross was unique to him, but he makes it clear that we have our own cross, and if we want to follow him we must take up our cross, and we must deny ourselves and lose our life for his sake. Rather than trying to make following him appealing, Jesus always promised a way of sacrifice and difficulty. What he held out as enticement was an eternity of life with Him.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
This is one of the most important and foundational truths in the Bible. This passage declares that the way we think and do things is not the way God thinks and does things. But it doesn’t just state that they are different, it’s adamant that they are vastly different, that they are nothing alike. It’s disturbing how so many churches rely on worldly wisdom, business strategies, and marketing to attract people to their church. They invest a lot of money and effort to create an attractive brand. But God’s ways are far different and far higher than this.
…through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22 ESV)
and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:17 ESV)
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12 ESV)
These truths don’t seem attractive, because God’s ways seem foolish to the natural mind7 and are at odds with the wisdom of the world. “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”8 God’s ways are higher, and they are perfect for accomplishing His purposes. God’s ways are focused on the spiritual and eternal, not the physical and immediate. If we don’t come to grips with how different God’s ways are from our ways, then we are in danger of being a hinderance to God’s purposes.
Peter went on to grow in wisdom and understanding. He left behind his expectations of glory and grandeur, lived a life grounded in the reality that suffering is an integral part of a believer’s life, and eventually died a martyr’s death. To his revelation of who Jesus is, Peter added the revelation of what it means to truly follow Christ. His insight and experience are expressed in his following contribution to scripture.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (13) But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (14) If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14 ESV)
Lord, grant us mercy, and stir us to diligently seek your ways. May we be fully convinced that your ways stem from your perfect wisdom, and only your ways can fulfill your purposes.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (26) yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Matthew 11:25-26 ESV)
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- Matthew 16:16 ESV
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- Matthew 16:21 ESV
- Matthew 16:22 ESV
- Matthew 16:23 ESV
- Matthew 16:24-25 ESV
- 1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
- 1 Corinthians 1:20 ESV