Matthew 16:21-23 (NRSV)
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
At first glance, Jesus’ rebuke seems unfair. Peter expresses concern for the Master he loves, and instead of being grateful, Jesus criticizes and insults him. Why so harsh?
Although Peter has just declared Jesus to be “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v.16), he does not yet understand what that means. Jesus is fully God, yet he is also fully human, a mystery that Satan fully understood when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the top of this temple.” Satan is implying, “You are too special to suffer like an ordinary human.” Jesus rejects the offer and rebukes Satan for testing God’s commitment to redeeming creation through his own painful death on a cross.
Now Peter unwittingly echoes Satan’s temptation, and Jesus rejects it with the same fervor. Moreover, Jesus is driving home a lesson for all the disciples, including we modern-day followers. Jesus warns us all to look beyond our natural human vision and embrace God’s bigger plan. We must look for God’s perspective in all our daily concerns so that we can be assets rather than stumbling blocks to the kingdom God wants to build in our midst.
We serve God best when we “set our minds” on divine things. This means taking time to study God’s word and imagine what God wants and expects from us as we deal with life. It means learning to deal with people in ways that serve God’s redemptive purpose rather than through habits that serve our own purposes.
We might ask ourselves these mind-setting questions:
- What does God see in this person that I, with my human eyesight, have difficulty seeing?
- How might trusting God’s sovereignty change my attitude toward a troublesome person or a painful circumstance?
- In what ways have I set my mind on human things and made myself a stumbling block to building God’s kingdom in my family, my workplace, my community, or my church?
FATHER, I ask for spiritual sensitivity to notice your presence and purpose in every aspect of my life. May knowing you as my Lord fundamentally change my approach to every person and every relationship, that I may be an asset rather than a stumbling block to your good plans.
Matthew 4:5-7; 16:15-19; 2 Corinthians 5:16
How does a human mindset contribute to conflict? How might a divine perspective change your behavior?