After he had Jesus alone, I am sure Peter repeated what he thought Jesus had said. Something like this, I imagine –
Peter: “Lord, let me get this straight. Did I hear you right? Do you think that when we get to Jerusalem that the religious leaders are going to give you a hard time? Why that’s nothing new, they’ve been doing that to us for almost three years now.
But, this business that they’re going to kill you, I can’t believe you said that. I’m not sure what all that business about rising on the third day was, but you’re not going to have to rise from anywhere on any day! Wouldn’t that be better?
No, this will never happen to you! I promise you that as long as I’m around nobody will do you any harm.”
At this point, I am sure that Peter is feeling pretty good about himself. After all, he’s the only one, again, with the boldness and courage to knock this silly notion that Jesus is going to be killed by a bunch of effete, soft-handed religious leaders. What match would they be for a fisherman, or a bunch of fishermen for that matter?
But unfortunately for Peter, Jesus response comes as a complete surprise.
Jesus: “Peter, I’ve just called you the Rock, but now I call you Satan. Get out of my sight, quit blocking my way on the road to Jerusalem. You’re thinking the wrong way, you’re thinking like they think, like the religious leaders I’m challenging. All they know is power and force and violence and threats and intimidation. No, you’re thinking like they are. You need to think like you belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Of course, that is the Warnock Revised Version, but I think you get the point. Peter has failed to grasp that what Jesus is about is not bringing in the Kingdom of God like the religious leaders of his day, by collaborating with the most powerful military juggernaut on earth, the Roman Empire.
Jesus is again telling the disciples how different life is in the Kingdom of God, and how Kingdom living requires a kingdom mindset.
Developing A Kingdom Mindset
Listen again to what Jesus tells the disciples. I imagine that Peter hasn’t taken Jesus so far to the side that Jesus can’t turn and address them all. I also imagine that Jesus has emphatically made his point with Peter, so much so that the firm and commanding tone of his voice has already gotten their attention.
Jesus must have turned and addressed them all:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life[h] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
That is definitely not the way the world thinks. First, Jesus might have pointed to a man hanging on a cross to issue his challenge to them. When the Romans put down a minor rebellion in Jerusalem during Herod’s reign, they crucified 2,000 men, lining the roads into Jerusalem with their crosses on which they left their bodies to become food for the vultures.
So, the image might have been graphically before them. “Here’s what happens when you follow me,” Jesus might have said. “You take up a cross and follow me, because that’s my way.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous book, The Cost of Discipleship, contains Bonhoeffer’s comment that “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer would give his life in a German concentration camp only shortly before the Allies would crush the Third Reich and liberate that Nazi death camp.
But to help them understand the significance of what he was telling them, Jesus added,
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
In other words, the more we try to hold on to our lives, the more we seek to save ourselves, the more we operate as this sad world operates, the less chance we have of actually finding life, of being the people that God created us to be.
Kingdom thinking does not start with “I.” Rick Warren began his mega-million seller, The Purpose-Driven Life with these words, “It’s not about you.”
Kingdom thinking, a Kingdom mindset, starts with Jesus. If Jesus is not worthy of our lives, then we are not thinking Kingdom thoughts.
If we gain the whole world, and here I think Jesus meant all that the present life in this existence has to offer – fame, money, material possessions, friends, family, and so on – but have failed to understand that all of that is temporary, fleeting (a vapor as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it) then we have failed to understand the purpose for which God has placed us on this earth.
A kingdom mindset is not conventional wisdom. The reason Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek,” was because they had always heard “an eye for an eye.” The reason Jesus said, “Go the second mile,” is because they had practiced the art of obedient hostility toward the Roman soldiers who could compel an able-bodied Jewish man to carry his pack for one mile.
The reason Jesus said to “love your enemies” was because they had heard they were supposed to “love their neighbors and hate their enemies.”
But the response to this is and has always been, “But that will never work in the real world.” And yet, the individuals in history who have captured our imagination have been those who have showed kindness in the midst of hostility, love in the midst of hate, and who have given their lives for causes most of us think are impossible and pointless.
Mother Teresa who started a home for the dying, so those dying in the streets of India could die surrounded by those who loved them. She captures our imagination because we would not do what she did. We might start a hospital to help cure them, or give funds to those who build houses, but those who are dying are dying anyway, why waste time and attention on them? And, that is the difference in our conventional thinking and Kingdom thinking.
So, how do we develop a Kingdom mindset?
First, by realizing that the life and teaching of Jesus is the basis for the way we live our lives. Jesus said to the disciples that “…the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”
I don’t think that means that Jesus is going to reward folks for doing a few good deeds. What I think Jesus means is that your reward will be based on what decision you have made, what you have done, in order to live your life by Kingdom values. And, the first thing you must do in order to think Kingdom thoughts is to let your life be transformed by the King of that Kingdom.
Secondly, we must realize that there are times, quite a few of them actually, when the words of Jesus and the thinking of this world system in which we find ourselves will not agree. Our decision then has to be to stay with Jesus. Against the opinions of our friends, our family, our political party, and our neighbors. Why? Because conventional thinking, like Peter’s, is not a Kingdom mindset.
Finally, we must remember that the Kingdom of God has already begun. We are not waiting for death to usher us into the Kingdom. The Spirit of God has already done that when by the mystery of God we were, as Paul said, transferred from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of light.
We must admit things have gone terribly wrong in this world. I don’t think I have ever seen a time in my life when there is so much violence, so much discord, so much conflict, so much poverty, so much hatred, so much discontent around the entire globe, as there is today.
Without faith in Christ, without a commitment to a different way to live, one would have to despair for the future. But, there is another way to think. Not the way that Peter was thinking, but a new way to think: a kingdom mindset.
That’s what Jesus meant when he would say, “You have heard it has been said…but I say unto you….” You’ve heard the old way to think and act, but there’s a new way, a Kingdom way, a way that is hard, involves sacrifice, and may lead to your losing everything. But that is the only way you’ll gain anything.
If you want to develop a kingdom mindset, learn to think like the King.