What is your first impression of the exchange between Peter and Jesus? Peter rebukes Jesus and then Jesus rebukes Peter. This is a very puzzling text, a real head scratcher. One might say that Jesus was having a bad day and was really mean and cranky with Peter.
After all, Jesus did have a lot on his plate, especially with everyone's expectations of him as their messiah.
What was so wrong about Peter's response to Jesus' news about suffering, being killed and rising?After all, Peter loved Jesus and cared about what would happen to him. Put yourself in Peter's shoes. Peter could not imagine his messiah and friend being subjected to such horror.
Wasn't Peter responding in a way any loving friend would?
Let's be honest with each other. Do any of you wonder why Jesus is talking like this?
Let's see what we can discover together about today's gospel.
First of all, this passage is right in the middle of Mark's gospel. Jesus has given his disciples plenty of lead-time to understand what was ahead for himself and ultimately for them. In today's gospel this is the first of three times in Mark that Jesus talks about his coming crucifixion and resurrection.
Jesus is introducing a new phase in his ministry. This is Mark's signal that a shift in the message is taking place. This is unlike Jesus' prior teaching, Repent for the kingdom of God is near and the disciples are not prepared for this change.
Here is Jesus new message:
He must undergo great suffering
be rejected by elders, chief priests, scribes
and rise after 3 days.
You have to admit that's a lot to tell anyone. we have in this one verse references to Jesus' future path which would be one of suffering, rejection, and death and he will will rise after three days. We like Easter and its focus on the victory of Christ over death and the grave. It's much more positive and upbeat. But we cannot rush ahead to the resurrection without experiencing the pain of the cross. Mark does not want the church to use Easter to escape Lent and Holy Week. We cannot have a crown without the cross.
Here we have the most important issue in Mark's gospel--the prediction of Jesus' passion and the fact that his passion is normative and definitive for the life of a follower of Jesus. Remember that Jesus "said all this quite openly." This is intense, strong language.
Shouldn't Peter have anticipated predictions of Jesus' death? Where has Peter been? Jesus has encountered open hostility from the religious authorities. Their plot could not have been overlooked. Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, another truth teller had been beheaded because of his refusal to water down his message to the authorities. You go up against the authorities with the truth of God's word and you die. Given all of this, Peter's response is startling. Peter did understand what Jesus was saying. He just doesn't like what he is hearing. Peter wanted to alter God's plan and fix this problem. Peter could not see as far as the resurrection. He could only see as far as the cross.
As startling as Peter's response to Jesus' prediction about his future was, Jesus' rebuke of Peter is even more startling. Wouldn't you expect Jesus to comfort Peter by telling him that everything will be fine? The phrase "Get behind me Satan" or "Depart behind me" contrasts with the original call to discipleship.
"Follow me and I will make you fish for people" (Mark 1:17). By standing in front of Jesus, Peter was literally an obstacle on the way to the cross. As a disciple, where should he be?---following behind Jesus.
When Jesus is rebuking Peter, Jesus is telling Peter that he needs to set his mind on divine, not human things. Wasn't Peter thinking about divine things? If we go to the verses just before today's gospel, we see the divine things he has been thinking about--divine things like Jesus' power, authority and even about Jesus' status as Messiah.
Wasn't Jesus really the one at fault here? After all, Jesus introduced human things into the conversation with his insistence on talking about his future suffering and death. The issue at hand is perception. Who knows better, Jesus or Peter? Part of Peter's problem was that, he as the disciple was trying to correct the teeacher.isPeter was trying to correct Jesus' false theology.
By human standards, the cross appears to be foolishness, and an awful defeat to Jesus' work, whereas by God's standards, it is wisdom. God's will is not foiled by Jesus going to the cross. God was not taken by surprise. The cross was the plan from the very beginning.
As we move to the second half of today's gospel, more people are in on the challenge of what it really means to be a follower of Jesus. The way of the cross is not only for Jesus and the 12, but for all the multitude who follow. Unlike the crowd that day, we have access to both the private and public teaching of Jesus.
Jesus spells out the meaning of real discipleship. In fact, this translation actually waters down the requirements a little. A better translation of the Greek is "one MUST deny" oneself
The cross we are called to bear is not referring to the inconveniences or pains of life, but in the suffering involved in discipleship and Christian mission. It is to accept the rejection of the world for turning to Jesus.
The point is that if one comes to Jesus, then rejection by many will certainly follow. If self-protection is a key motivation in one's life, then one will not respond to Jesus and will not be saved. One who is willing to risk rejection will respond and find true life.
What Jesus is calling us to is a 100% commitment to use our gifts, skills, talents and resources to share the gospel and to live in the reign of God now. It's all or nothing.
Suffering and sacrifice for being a disciple of Christ is not limited to the first century. ISIS is overrunning Christian villages in Syria and Iraq. Egyptian Coptic Christians have been slaughtered for their faith. We here in America, sometimes think that the American Christian church has really experienced persecution because of attacks on public Christmas displays or the definition of marriage or lack of prayer in school or at public events, but we have not experienced the pain that our Christian brothers and sisters are going through in other parts of the world.
So...where's the good news in this? We're telling people the truth, not sugarcoating it with pie in the sky, happy sappy, feel good philosophy. The way of the cross which we especially emphasize during Lent is the only way to true joy and true fulfillment.
Life with Jesus at the center is full of things that money, power and prestige just can't buy, such as real love, limitless hope, deep relationship, radical generosity and true power in the upside-down, inside-out vision of God's design for the world.
That is the good news.