Set your mind on the things of God.

gospel of mark jesus mind thinking

A little over twenty years ago, I began a five-year ministry experience that involved directing a Christian camp and conference center.  It was one of the hardest and best things I have ever agreed to do, and I’m grateful for the lessons the Lord taught me through that experience.

 One lesson He taught me during that time was not to be surprised when you encounter people who out of one corner of their mouths profess to be committed Christians while out of the other corner of their mouths demonstrate just how deep their allegiance to the things of this world runs.

 This stood out to me in particular when it was time to hire a summer staff each year.  The process would usually begin in January and would finish sometime around April.  I will never forget how I felt when I witnessed several of our staff who wanted to return to continue serving in the ministry but were prevented by their father because he wasn’t convinced they’d make enough money serving at the camp.  He prevented his children from continuing to serve in the ministry and made them get jobs in a local grocery store.  

 At the end of the summer, they filled me in on how it went.  Unfortunately, not only did they miss out on the ministry opportunity they wanted to be invested in, they also ended up with less income.  The store never ended up giving them the hours they were promised.

 Their situation troubled me because while I think teaching your children how to earn and steward income is very important, it’s also important to teach them what it looks like to take steps of faith and walk through the doors the Lord opens for you even when that at times may mean earning less.  It’s hard for some people to see that, however, particularly if their minds are set on earthly things, and one of the primary values this world emphasizes is the acquisition of wealth at all costs.

 When Jesus interacted with His disciples, their worldly priorities would often get exposed.  Before their faith was truly tested and matured, they showed just how much they valued the typical things most people on this planet idolize; comfort, full bellies, power, and prestige.  In Mark 8:27-33, Jesus confronted these idols in dramatic fashion.

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”  (Mark 8:27-28)

This portion of Scripture is essentially at the halfway point of the gospel of Mark.  Prior to this passage, the emphasis had been on the teaching and miracles Jesus did that caused His name to be known among the people and despised among the religious elite.  Now Mark’s gospel will transition toward Christ’s mission to suffer and die on the cross to atone for our sin.

 During this season of His ministry, there were many people who speculated about His identity.  There were all kinds of theories floating around, so Jesus asked His disciples what they had been hearing.  Some of the most prominent theories were that He was John the Baptist, the prophet Elijah who was taken to Heaven without experiencing physical death (2 Kings 2), or maybe another prophet.

 It’s interesting to read about Jesus asking this question of His disciples because speculation about who He is continues to this day.  I recently watched a series of on-the-street interviews where people were asked who they thought Jesus was, and all kinds of theories were suggested.  Some people were complimentary of Him.  Some were derogatory, while others seemed dismissive of His very existence.  But Christ’s identity is something we all eventually have to wrestle with, and this same question was about to be posed to the disciples.

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.  (Mark 8:29-30)

The Scriptures leading up to this passage made it obvious that the disciples still had an immature understanding of Christ’s identity.  Their hearts were also frequently hard toward many important spiritual matters which makes Peter’s reply particularly interesting.  When Jesus asked His disciples who they believed Him to be, Peter, who often would speak on behalf of the group, expressed His belief that Jesus was the Christ, the long-promised Messiah.  What prompted Peter to say this?  How did he know this answer?  The same account in Matthew’s gospel gives us a few additional details.

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:16-17)

 Spiritual truth is spiritually perceived.  Peter didn’t just naturally deduce who Jesus was, this deeper-level spiritual truth was revealed to him by God the Father.  Why does that matter?

 Have you ever considered why you believe and are convinced that Jesus is the Christ?  When someone asks you the question, “Who is Jesus?,” why do you give the answer you give?  If you genuinely believe He is God in the flesh, the eternal Son of God, the Christ, Messiah, and Savior, do you believe these things because you’re smarter than other people or did the Holy Spirit reveal these truths to your heart while simultaneously opening your eyes, ears, and mind so you could perceive and believe what He was revealing?


“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  (John 15:26)


But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  (1 Cor. 2:9-10)


What a blessing it is to have the truth of Jesus revealed to our hearts.  And as recipients of this truth, it’s our privilege to be His ambassadors who partner with Him in making this truth known.  It’s such a joy to be able to be asked the question, “Who is Jesus to you?” and to answer with delight.

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.”  (Mark 8:31-32a)

Up to this point, much of Christ’s public teaching was shared in parables.  When they were away from the crowds, the disciples would often ask Him follow-up questions about what He taught, but there were plenty of things they still struggled to understand and accept.  Now the time had come for Jesus to teach them in very plain language that wasn’t challenging to understand and didn’t mince words.  Jesus told the disciples directly that He would suffer, be rejected, be killed, and then rise from death after three days.

 When you read those words of Christ, what internal reaction do you have?  Does your familiarity with what He did make those words less surprising to you?  How do you think those words hit the disciples’ ears?  They’ve certainly witnessed the conflict Jesus had experienced with the religious leaders, but they’ve also seen thousands of people flock to Him, many with the desire to call Him their king.  They’ve also probably enjoyed some of the attention they’ve been receiving because of their association with Jesus, but when He spoke of His rejection and death, I’m sure that was hard to hear.

In fact, Peter makes it clear that he didn’t want any part of what Jesus was revealing.  Rejection and death don’t sound pleasing, particularly when you’re still a little too focused on the comforts and priorities of this world.

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  (Mark 8:32b-33)

 It seems a bit presumptuous of Peter to attempt to rebuke Jesus, but he was so disturbed by what Jesus was saying that he took Him aside and attempted to do so.  To his surprise, he was the one who received the more stinging rebuke.  

 Christ’s mission was to come to this earth, live the perfect life Adam couldn’t live and we couldn’t live either, fulfill all righteousness, suffer, be tortured and shamed, bear the wrath for sin that our iniquities deserved, die a painful death on the cross, then defeat sin, Satan, and death through resurrecting from the grave.  Peter’s rebuke of Jesus after hearing this revealed was an attempt to discourage Jesus from fulfilling that mission, and Jesus declared that mindset nothing less than satanic.

 I find it amazing to consider that in one moment, Peter was confessing that Jesus was the Christ while in the next moment, he was attempting to discourage Jesus from fulfilling His divinely ordained mission to bear the sin for humanity and become the firstfruits of the resurrection.

 It’s just as amazing to consider that we quite often have the same tendency to prioritize the things that seem so consequential on this earth more than we prioritize the eternal goals Christ has for our lives.

 On any given day, how often do we think about how much we have in our bank account versus how many eternal rewards we’re storing up in Heaven through faithful obedience to Jesus in the present?

 How much time do we think about the opinions our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors have of us versus the way we’re seen and valued in the eyes of God?  Was there even one time this week that we allowed ourselves to think about the fact that if we are united to Jesus by faith, His righteousness has been supernaturally imputed to our account and we are now seen as holy and blameless in the eyes of God even if no one else sees us that way?

 Let’s be honest…it’s easy for us to be just as earthly-minded as Peter was in some of his lowest moments.  But let’s also take heart.  Just as the Holy Spirit opened our eyes to recognize Christ, so too can He open our eyes to recognize His word and His eternal plan as it is being carried out all around us.

"Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence."  -Augustine

© John Stange, 2024


Get Wisdom from the Bible in your Inbox

Sign up for the most encouraging newsletter on the Internet

You're safe with us. We never spam or sell your contact info.