Setting Our Mind on the Things of Man or the Things of God – Peter, Jesus, and Suffering in Mark 8:33

Mark 8:33, things of man vs things of God

I’ve noticed that being ill has helped me to read the Bible through a new lens. And consequently, passages that once seemed irrelevant to me, have taken on new meaning.

In Mark 8:31-32, just after Peter states his belief that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus tries to tell his disciples that he will undergo rejection, suffering, and death. Clearly, Peter is envisioning a Christ whose reign is marked by power and success, and so Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to “rebuke” him.

In response, Jesus tells Peter, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33).

For the past couple of days, I have been thinking about Mark 8:33. How relevant it is to me!

For like Peter, “things of man” is my framework for viewing the world, for making judgements and decisions. When my life is not a clear and straight upward trajectory, I despair and sense failure.

The framework of men—the worldview of Peter and I—doesn’t involve suffering, being rejected, or dying (these are the very things in Mark 8:31 that Peter reacts against as Jesus announces them). Yet, Jesus insists that his soon coming suffering is a thing of God. For, paradoxically, whoever want to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will save it (Mark 8:35).

I am reminded again that, in God’s worldview, losing is gaining and failing is winning. The central act of Jesus on this earth was to suffer for humankind. His greatest victory was death on the cross.

The question of whether we are setting our mind on things of man or things of God is not just a question for Peter. For all of us, if we’re honest, our instinct is to choose a path that aligns with a human worldview of success—the “things of man.”

It is my prayer that I would be able to evaluate my intentions and actions against a purer rubric than I’ve previously followed. May my view of my life’s decisions and events be shaped by what I know from Jesus’ road to the cross, that a road that seems like a descent, that a road studded with stations of setbacks, ultimately is the paradoxical road to God and a sublime triumph.