“setting your mind not on divine things” (Mark 8:33)

Last week we met Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness, trying to take him off his path. This week we meet Satan doing it again, and this time, he is Peter. In turn, we are Satan whenever we, like Peter, set our minds not on divine things but on human things (Mark 8:33).

Jesus goes on to say that he must suffer, as will his followers. The human things that Peter, and we, focus on are self-preservation and protection. When we focus on divine things, the world is turned upside down: losing one’s life is saving it and saving one’s life is losing it (Mark 8:35).

In the story of Abraham and Isaac we have a type of the Christ. In the end, Isaac does not have to die; a lamb (ram) is provided for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:13). But Jesus says that he must give his life. Therefore, in the shadow of Abraham/Isaac, Jesus is the Lamb of God dying for the world. But it does not end there. This is not just about Jesus. In turning the world upside down, we, in turn, are to lose our lives.

Sometimes a person might literally give his or her life for another. Perhaps the more challenging heroic is to continue to give one’s life in lasting relationships, as in a marriage. It also may happen in church communities. There are countless numbers of people who interpret this text not by their words, but by their lives. They thereby demonstrate that God does not want suffering for its own sake, as if taking sadistic pleasure in our torments. Rather, when we focus on other people (i.e., divine things) there will inevitably be sacrifice for the sake of love.

This sacrificing for others, following the way of Christ, does not lead to our demise. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)

Look it Up

Read the Rev. Mark McIntosh’s exploration of sacrificial love and salvation in chapter six of Mysteries of Faith, part of the New Church’s Teaching Series.

Think About It

In examining our own lives this Lent, do we find that we focus on others (i.e., divine things) no matter what the sacrifice? Or have we been focused on our own preservation and protection (human things)?