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15th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 16:21-26

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, So, what’s on your mind?  I find myself asking that question more and more when I observe my children.  What’s on your mind?  I once found teeth marks all along the head board of our bed because one of our children decided to gnaw on it.  What’s on your mind?  Another time I watched as a few of my children decided to get down on their hands and knees and lap up muddy water from a puddle in our drive way.  What’s on your mind?  Another time some of my kids decided to wash our cars…not with soap and water but dirt and mud instead.  What’s on your mind?  What’s going through your head that would make you do things like that?  What were you thinking?

Well, I wonder how often God could look at you and me and ask that same question: What’s on your mind?  What were you thinking?  What’s going through your head that would make you do something like that?  Typically, the things that we do, or the things that we say, begin in our hearts and in our minds.  Our thinking affects our behavior.  What’s in our minds affects what we do or say.  So, what’s on your mind?

In our text we find out what was on Peter’s mind and likely on the minds of many of Jesus’ disciples as well.  Immediately before this incident in our text we’re told about the disciple Peter’s excellent confession of faith in Christ.  Jesus had just asked his disciples who people say that he is and then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?”  And Peter, the often-spokesman for the group, boldly confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  He was exactly right and Jesus promised to build his church on that rock-solid confession.  The disciple had finally got it, they finally understood who Jesus really is, who His person is.  But then Jesus said something strange.  Just before our text Jesus told them not to tell anyone that He is the Christ.  We might think, “Why not?  Shouldn’t that be exactly what they are to do?”  But Jesus had a reason.  They might have understood who Jesus is, but as we see, they hadn’t quite understood why Jesus had come, what his purpose was.  And that’s what Jesus was teaching them next.  That’s where we pick up our text. (read text)

Jesus began very clearly to explain to his disciples the nature of his work in the world.  He had specifically come for this sole purpose of going to Jerusalem and suffering and dying, offering himself as the sacrifice for the sins of every human being, then rising from the dead to announce his triumphant victory over sin, death, and the devil.

But to our sinful human minds this idea that victory would come through suffering and death makes no sense.  That something good could come out of pain, suffering, defeat, and death is incomprehensible.  And Peter wanted nothing to do with that.  So he took Jesus aside and literally said, “Mercy to you Lord!” And then using the strongest form of negation possible he said, “This shall never happen to you!”  And likely the last words Peter would have expected to come out of the Savior’s mouth came next: “Get behind me, Satan!  You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.”  Wow!  Ouch!  I’m fairly confident to say that none of us would like Jesus to say those words to us!

But are there times when we need to hear that?  Are there times when we need to hear from God, “You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men”?  What’s on your mind?  What’s on my mind?  Peter didn’t deny himself, he wasn’t denying his own opinions, his own interests, rather he was denying Jesus.

You know, we have all kinds of things that can be on our minds too, don’t we?  We have time-consuming projects and difficult tasks at work that fills our minds.  We have family obligations, children’s sports or recreational schedules to keep in mind, anniversaries, birthdays, parties, get-togethers, that fill our thoughts and minds.  Sometimes we can get up early and going here, going there, doing this, doing that, so by the end of the day we’re exhausted and haven’t focused one minute on God by reading his Word or going to him in prayer.  What’s on our minds?  The things of God or the things of men?  Are there times we need to say, “Get behind me Satan!  You’re a stumbling block to me!”

Everyday there’s so much information coming at us from every direction – the newspaper, the internet, the TV, the radio – that can fill our minds with all kinds of different things.  We can readily hear about how the whole earth is groaning under the curse of sin and perhaps it can lead us to wonder or question God’s power or question God’s love.  What’s on our minds?  The things of God or the things of men?  Are there times when we need to say, “Get behind me Satan!”

The world offers so many things that seem so appealing, so alluring, so pleasurable.  The latest technological gizmo, the latest home improvement, the newest iphone, the latest and greatest toy.  There’s so many things that Satan uses to sneak up on us and convince us that life isn’t worth living until you have this thing or that thing.  And all of a sudden our attention, our energy, our time, our money is directed toward the things of this world, the things of men and less and less of our focus is directed toward the eternal riches that are ours in Christ.  What’s on our minds?  The things of God or the things of men?  Do we need to say, “Get behind me Satan!”

The things of God are so different than the things of men.  Saying “yes” to the things of men means saying “no” to the things of God.  Saying “yes” to self means saying “no” to Jesus.  Peter wanted a Jesus who would rule with power and might and glory, not a Jesus who would suffer and die.  Jesus said, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  That means submitting my wants, my desires, my hopes, my dreams, my will to what God wants for me.  That means being ready to endure whatever difficulties, hardships, struggles, or persecutions I must face because of my faith in Jesus.  Being ready to struggle against sin to do what my Savior wants, being ready to face ridicule for believing in a Savior who died on a cross, being ready to follow my Savior no matter what the cost might be.  So what’s on your mind?  The things of God or the things of men?

For even if we were to gain the whole world, yet forfeit our soul, what good would that be?  In other words, what’s more important this life or eternal life, which makes this life look like hardly a speck of dust?  What’s on your mind?  What’s on mine?  If we’re honest with ourselves, we each have to admit that all too often our minds have been focused on the things of men and not the things of God.  Jesus warns that anyone who wants to save his life in this world, have a sinful, worldly, pleasurable life in this world, will lose it, will face eternity in the hell prepared for the devil and his evil angels where there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth.  What’s at stake is nothing to yawn at!

So what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  We can’t give anything.  We can only thank God there actually was one thing that was given in exchange for our souls. There was one payment that was made to buy our souls. That one thing was Jesus’ holy, precious blood given through his innocent suffering and death. He gave those up for you and for me to cover over our worldliness, our sinfulness, our selfishness. He forfeited his own life so that we would not have to forfeit ours to eternity in hell.

Someone once said, “Becoming a Christian costs you nothing, living as a disciple costs you everything.”  As Christians Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, deny sinful pleasures, deny selfish attitudes, leave behind sinful habits and pet sins, to give up our pride and our desire to be first, to let go of our pursuit after the latest and the greatest that the world offers.  As Christians our Savior calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.  But he doesn’t leave us on our own.  He gives you the strength to carry your cross through the gospel, which builds your faith as you hear again your forgiveness in Christ.  He gives you strength through his body and blood given to you in His supper to assure you of forgiveness.  He gives you strength as you remember the waters of your baptism and how they washed you clean from your sins and it gives you a shield against Satan’s attacks.  It’s that gospel that is the bridge between the cross you carry in this life and the crown you will receive in the next.  At the end you will trade the cross of this life for the crown of glory won for you by Christ, the crown of victory, the crown that means you are safe at home with your Savior.

So this week, what’s going to be on your mind?  By God’s grace, may you have in mind the things of God, not men.  Amen.