Matthew 16:23 – 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.”
Lots of people are fascinated by the moment when Jesus called Peter “Satan.” It is a pretty dramatic rebuke. But I wonder if we let the heaviness of the rebuke prevent us from seeing an application that we must grasp.
Just a moment before, Jesus had commended Peter. Peter boldly stated that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus said that such faith, such a confession, such a truth is the rock upon which he would build his church. And Peter must have felt pretty good.
But then Jesus turned the conversation. He started talking about his soon-coming execution. Peter felt the need to step in. No way was Peter, the man who just called Jesus the Christ, going to see Jesus crucified.
It is then that Jesus says 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.” When Peter sees Jesus as the Christ, it is commendable. But when Peter focuses on the things of man above the things of God, Peter, like the devil, is an adversary to Jesus.
Of course this passage helps us to see that Jesus would let nothing stand in the way of his plan. The Savior had to go to the cross if he would be able to save the souls of believers. We have no way to be right with God if Jesus does not die in our place.
But I wonder if there is more. Obviously, the crucifixion is a done deal. It has been perfectly accomplished in the past. But, do some who claim Christ, do some churches, stand as adversaries to Jesus by thinking about the things of man rather than the things of God?
What would it look like to have the mind of the church set on the things of man? I do not think this is a tremendously hard question to answer. Just look around and ask yourself where people gather and focus on things that have little to nothing to do with the Savior. Where are churches interested more in building their numbers and becoming important in their towns than on exalting Christ even when that is unpopular in their community? Where are Christians looking for safety above looking for ways to serve the Lord? Where do churches compromise the clear word of God for the approval of society? Where do churches make the continuation of their organization of greater importance than faithfulness to the commands of the Savior?
What would it look like today to have the mind of the church set on the things of God? We know that answer too. We see it when Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow him. We see it when he reminds us that those who love him and follow him will be hated by the lost world. We see it when we see the New Testament commands to love one another, to obey the word, to preach the word, to sing songs that teach true doctrine, and to take the gospel into the world. All of the New Testament epistles are designed to show the church how to be people whose minds are set on the Lord and his priorities.
Christian, what about your own life? Does it look like the things of Christ are front-and-center? Is your hope in him and his return? Is your hope in eternity? Is your priority his glory in the here and now? Are you eager to follow him even when that following will take you to places culture cannot approve?
Friends, we may love and serve our Savior. And we will face temptations in this life to be his adversaries by focusing more on the things of man than the things of God. May we be faithful. May we repent when we fail. And may we be on the side of the Lord eternally.