Think like God



Mt 16,21-27 is read today. Jesus gets angry with Peter and says that he “sets his mind on the things of men”. The priest and pope Francis did not talk about this sentence maybe because it is difficult to interpret. I decided to make a try.  This led me to choose the title of this post. 

I will emphasize in mya article, on Peter’s reaction. His reaction is quite easy to understand today with the help of some knowledge in neurology.

I have found that the message Jesus gives in Matthew 16:23 helps us to follow Jesus’ commandment “Lover you enemy”. Iexplain this in my conclusion.



The text

( N:B. The texts below are copied from )

Mt 16,21-27 says 

16:21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.
16:22 Peter took him aside, and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.”
16:23 But he turned, and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”
16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
gle translate16:25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
16:26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?

16:27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will render to everyone according to his deeds


The message

We must remember that the  apostles, in this case Matthew themselves interpreted Jesus’ word, translating these from Jesus language  Galilean Aramaica form of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. So we can never know what Jesus really said. We have to rely on the translation in greek made by Matthew.

Set your mind on the things of God.

Normally the focus on today’s reading is on how to follow Jesus (“take the cross”. etc.). I prefer to emphasize on 16:23

Jesus said to Peter according to 16:23 : “… you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of men.”

The Italian version in  Mt 16,21-27 writes:
perché non pensi secondo Dio, ma secondo gli uomini!”
This translates to English as:
“because you do not think according to God, but according to men!”.

I have to look at the Greek version as often happens with New testament Bible text that were written in Greek.

I used Biblehub to read the Greek text. The Greek version is:

ὅτι οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.”

ὅτι οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων
hoti ou phroneis ta you Theou alla ta tōn anthrōpōn
For not your thoughts are of the things of God but the  things of men


phroneis is a variation of phroneo, to think

The Greek version word φρονεῖν, sphronein is similar to the Greek wordσωφρονεῖν, sōphronein that is used in other Bible texts (Roman 12:3 and Titus 2:6

About σωφρονεῖν, sōphronein  the book “the art and thought of Heraclitos” reads:

σωφρονεῖν, sōphronein can have these interpretations:

  •  have sound judgment
  • to be sober-minded to each
  • to be sensible

Paul uses sophronein in Colossians 2:3: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Peter uses a diffferent word in 5:8 “Νήψατε, Nēpsate (Be sober, be vigilant); be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Paul says about thinking in Romans 12:3 “… think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” 

For you who want to listen to Pope Francis that talks every Sunday at noon (GMT 11) here is the youtube recorded from




Peter could not know what we know today about our brain.  Peter reacted like a normal human. Jesus was right in saying “you should think like God” and not react like humans do. he could today have said “you must reprogram your amygdala.”.

What is to think “sober-minded” and “think like God”? I believe that must be aware about our brain’s alarm and anger functions.

 I will try to explain here. 

“We are feeling creatures who (shouldnthink” as Jill Bolte Taylor says in her Ted. I would specify “should think”. Peter could not know what we know today about our brain.  Peter reacted like a normal human where “Half of his brain shut down”. This happened before when he had the vision of Jesus and Eliah.

The brain  is a predicting beast machine as Helmholtz once said and Anil Seth reminds us about and we must avoid judgement biases or prediction errors especially about our next, in peter’s case about Jesus.

We easily misinterpret others. Our amygdala in the limbic system is very fast in “pushing the fire alarm button

The amygdala in our limbic system is programmed to warn you if you are excluded from your community”. To be part of the community is a survival issue for humans. For Peter not having Jesus with him became a survival issue.

A signal that you are at risk in the community is when someone yells at you or behaves badly with you. Amygdala starts a stress reaction with cortisol flowing in your blood making your blood leave the brain and flow to the muscles.

Your brain makes therefore easily, bad predictions. This is something that often happens when you met adolescents that for some reason are angry with you.  When this happens, your anger system activates and you behave as if you have an enemy in front of you.

Here we have to automatize Jesus commandment “Love your enemies ” and with today’s reading “Think like God”.

We must “reprogram our Amygdala” so it does not push the alarm button when someone is angry with you or “threats to leave you”. The neurologist, Jill Bolte Taylor explains this very well in her Ted (listen from minute 4). Be prepared for some anxiety/stress reaction in her Seminar. You will maybe feel like Peter did.