The Great Exchange
By God's grace, a miracle will happen today. Having walked in here with the mind of men, you will walk out with the mind of God in the great exchange.
Do you mind? Ever think about the cluster of words we have around that word, mind? Never mind; I don't mind; mind you; do you mind? In our text, however, it's not the noun mind but the verb for minding. The insert translates it "have in mind", the NASB "setting your mind on.", the KJV catches a special flavor with "savourest," and the inventive Message translation has "have no idea."
Jesus says in our text: you do mind. Either you're minding the things of God or the things of man. You can't do both, and Jesus highlights this by saying an absolute on the contrary'. He tells Peter, "You are not minding the things of God but on the absolute contrary the things of men." A couple of more notes on the Greek. The 2 options for minding are the things of THE God or the things of THE men. There's an absolute contrast between the things that are God's and the things that are men's.
Jesus goes on to describe what it means for sinners to mind the things of the God and it isn't all heaven and trumpets. Minding the things of God means a denial of self, a taking up of the cross, certain death, and an equally certain resurrection. Minding the things of the people is the polar opposite. It's self-esteem not self-denial; it's the crown of life not of thorns, and it's eternal death. Every day of your life you are minding one or the other; you cannot do both. Every moment you're not minding the things of God you're minding the things of men, and you're not following Christ but out in front of Him wishing to lead Him as Satan tries in our text.
To which we say, "Lord have mercy!" Hear that the way Linda Ronstadt sang it, "Lord have mercy.on me!" That's right; have mercy Lord on ME emphatically. But that's not what Peter says in our text. The insert has "God forbid"; KJV "be it far from Thee"; Young's Literal has memorably "be kind to Thyself." They are all wrestling with a two-word Greek expression that NASB margin is getting closer to when it translates "God be merciful to you."
What Peter says is an abbreviation of a Greek expression. God is the implied subject and the implied verb is an intense expression of a wish which the speaker desperately wants. However, what really gets us turning towards the great exchange I referred to at the beginning is a reference to an even greater exchange that must happen first. It's found in the literal meaning of Peter's words. He doesn't say "God be merciful to you" but "propitious to you". The element in propitious' that is not in merciful' is that someone who has reason to be angry with you has had that anger satisfied and is now favorably disposed to you. The Greek word is found in the pagan classics where men make sacrifices to God to appease his anger.
If ever there was a 5.00 word we want to keep in our .50 cent vocabularies it's propitious.' It's being favorable toward someone after putting away anger. It has all but fallen out of use in the last 200 years, and I know why. Because sinners don't think they need it. The tax collector in Matthew 18 who can't raise his eyes to heaven knows he does. Your English translates, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." But what the tax collect really says is the verb form of our word, "God be propitiated in regard to me."
Our exact word is used only here and Hebrews 8:12 where Jeremiah 31 is quoting the Lord saying, "For I will be propitious to their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more." Peter cannot, will not, will never experience the great exchange of the mind of man for that of God as long as he believes that Jesus is the One who needs God to be propitious to Him. Peter has read the situation all wrong: Jesus must go to Jerusalem suffer many things at the hands of the Old Testament church leaders, be killed and be raised on the 3rd day not for Jesus' sake but for Peter's. Peter is assuring Jesus not to worry. God isn't angry with You not realizing that God is hopping mad, white-hot wrathful at him.
Did you go outside when the edges of Hurricane Harvey were whipping about? Did you notice that at times there was a sustained wind from one direction that did not abate? If you're closer to a hurricane, you will really feel that. This is the wrath of God against sinners like me and you. It is relentless and constant because our sins and sinfulness call for it. You don't cause the wind of God's wrath to slacken by promising to do better. You don't cause the gale of God's anger to die down by making excuses that might be plausible to men but are laughable to God.
Peter can't make the great exchange between the mind of men and the mind of God because he can't see that he desperately needs the greater exchange between his sinfulness and Christ's righteousness. You know how you go into a store or perhaps read a receipt looking for Exchange Policy? You know how at second hand stores, some clothing, and guns and ammo stores there is usually a big sign saying, "No Exchanges"? The person who doesn't know he needs an exchange doesn't notice those signs. You should. All sinners should.
But layers of modernity and the rejection of God's authority in the Bible, concludes the idea God being angry at sinners and sinfulness is old fashion, out of date, outmoded. It's not enlightened. It's only the primitive people who believed that a god was angry with them and so offered sacrifices of animals, vegetables, or people. We're above all that. No exchanges needed for us.
What if we're wrong? What if, as St. Paul says in Romans 1, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress God's truth? What if in the howling winds of Harvey and Irma or in just a harsh thunderstorm we are really hearing God's wrath against our sins, our guilt, His continued anger against sin and sinners?
The exposing of his sins leads the prophet Micah to realize he needs a sacrifice and doesn't have enough of one. He says, "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Even someone as late as 1857 got this truth. We sing in hymn 380. "Ten thousand deaths like mine would have been all too few." This hymn was first entitled "The Sinbearer" (Handbook to TLH, 272).
God's wrath must be satisfied. It will not blow itself out like a hurricane. An eternal God is eternally offended and He must be satisfied or His wrath goes on and on till time out of mind. Since are sin is against an eternal God temporal payment is not enough. People go to hell eternally because the wrath of God cannot be satisfied by any suffering done by a human in time or by a human eternally suffering in hell. It takes the suffering of God to appease the wrath of God. It takes the tears of God to quench the wrath of God. It takes the blood of God to wash away the stink of human sin and sinfulness that God can smell in heaven.
Paul explains the Greater Exchange in 2 Corinthians 5. First he says, "God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." Rather than count your sins or the sins of the whole world against it, God counted them against His only Son, Jesus. Paul explicitly states what the Greater Exchange is two verses later: "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
From the point of view of propitiation, it looks like this. Contrary to Peter, Jesus does not need God to be propitiated in His case, but we do. So, what a relief to here John say in his First Epistle second chapter, "Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world." People are rightly moved when one person saves another at the expense of their own life and limb. It changes them. It changes the way they think.
Jesus suffered many things at the hands of the Old Testament church leaders: mocking, beating, spitting, torturing, and finally crucifying and dying to save you, to redeem you. When you feel the smallest smidgen of guilt for paid for sins, when you feel the tiniest spark of God's wrath against you for sins that have been forgiven, when you think that you need to add just a bit, just a tear or two to Jesus' suffering, you are saying the eternity of hell Jesus went through on the cross wasn't enough. You are in effect running back into the burning building the fireman, at great cost, pulled you out of.
No, don't run back in. For freedom Christ has set you free. You are freed from the house burning down around you and from the sins burning within you. In forgiving your sins, in exchanging your death for His life, He has made you a new creation, a new creature. You have been redeemed for better and bigger things than decades of life on a planet that is dying. You have been redeemed for eternal things, heavenly things, real things not passing shadows. Therefore, Paul trumpets, "You set your mind (same word used here) on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."
Your English translations are going to translate that as an imperative "Set your mind on things above." That is Law and it can be preached that way, but if you read Colossians 3:1 the Gospel way you have this: "Since you have been raised with Christ, you do seek the things above where Christ is; you do set your mind on things above, not on the things on earth." There's the great exchange. You've slipped the surly, foreboding bonds of a fallen earth to sore the skies borne in the outstretched arms of the crucified Christ to touch the face of God. And you've found that face not angry, not frowning, but smiling.
This changes you; this exchanges your mind of men for the mind of God. A mind which denies the self that only burdens, to embrace the cross that only liberates, and to follow the only One able to lead you out of the grave to life everlasting. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (20170917); Matthew 16: 21-26