Mark 8:33

‘“you have in mind not the things of God,
but the things of men.”’
(Mark 8:33)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing things from a worldly perspective, even as Christians, not fully grasping the truth, seeing only what we want to see – half truths. That was Peter and the other disciples’ problem here, which prompted this necessary rebuke from Jesus.

Our Lord had been explaining to them that ‘the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again’(Mark 8:31). Unlike later, at this stage the disciples clearly had no idea that Jesus had to become this ‘atoning sacrifice’(1 John 4:10), then rise again, to make a ‘“way”’(John 14:6) for us back to the Father. So rather unwisely Peter ‘began to rebuke’(Mark 8:32) Jesus!

The disciples had come a long way in their journey of faith, but just like us had such blind spots. They had already ‘left’(Mark 1:18&10:28) everything to follow Jesus, and only a few verses earlier Peter had identified Him as ‘“the Christ”’(Mark 8:29), i.e. the anointed one, the Messiah. They likely expected this to mean an ‘Anointed… “King”’(Psalm 2:2-6), a ‘“son”’(Psalm 2:7) of God, who would be given ‘the nations’(Psalm 2:8), described elsewhere as ‘“one like a son of man”’(Daniel 7:13), who would be given ‘“glory, and a kingdom”’(Daniel 7:14), which would involve ‘“all the peoples, nations, and languages”’(Daniel 7:14) and become ‘“an everlasting dominion”’(Daniel 7:14) the kingdom of ‘“‘the saints of the Most High’”’(Daniel 7:27). However, somehow they’d missed out the more difficult bits, and the ‘suffering… servant’(Isaiah 53:3-11) element found in other prophesies, failing to grasp that Jesus’ Kingdom would not be ‘“of this world”’(John 18:36).

Interestingly, despite Jesus explaining several times about these ‘things that were going to happen to Him’(Mark 10:32), they still ‘didn’t understand’(Mark 9:32), instead arguing, in a worldly manner, about things like which of them would be ‘the greatest’(Mark 9:34) and angling to ‘become first’(Mark 10:44). We, like them, might similarly struggle to accept God’s ways or plans, especially if they don’t fit with our preconceived ideas, so we must beware.

Wisdom is looking to Him who sees everything clearly, including right through our blinkered worldliness, even to the depths of its root cause. Such insight led Jesus here to begin His rebuke with ‘“Get behind me, Satan”’(Mark 8:33)! Sometimes such incisive, even cutting remarks are necessary and should be welcomed, especially from our Lord. He continues the same work in us today, through His Spirit applying His Word, which is ‘sharper than any two-edged sword… able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart’(Hebrews 4:12). We might flinch and recoil initially, but wisdom is to draw closer, like Peter, asking where else ‘“would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God”’(John 6:68-69).

There we’ll be taught to see God’s ways and plans more clearly: ‘“Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”’(Mark 8:34) and “If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all”(Mark 9:35) for ‘“the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”’(Mark 10:45). As Paul put it later: ‘Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God’(Romans 12:2), which is ‘to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service’(Romans 12:1). Likewise, we’ll learn to stand with Jesus and cry out ‘“Get behind me, Satan!”’(Matthew 4:10), when lured by the tempting ways of this world.

However, although the disciples struggled to see and understand these things initially, as might we, they had better glimpsed our journey’s end. Paul saw and summed up the whole route beautifully, when he wrote to the Philippians: ‘Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who… didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but… taking the form of a servant… in human form… humbled Himself… to the point of death… the cross. Therefore God… highly exalted Him… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and… every tongue… confess… Jesus Christ is Lord’(Philippians 2:5-11). That’s how to have in mind ‘not the things of man, but the things of God’, following Him, so ending well, in His glorious Kingdom, forever.

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