Thursday, May 3rd. Mark 8:27-33

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.


Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’  Mark 8:27-33


Every time I come to this text I am reminded again of how absolutely timeless it is. 


For Jesus to ask the “Who do people say that I am?” question at Caesarea Philippi – a crossroads of ancient paganism and modern (at the time) political power – shares the same dynamic as Martin Luther King giving his “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  In both instances, a vision of life rooted in the Kingdom of God, Jesus as the promised Messiah and people living in harmony in the midst of diversity in the Beloved Community, is spoken in a setting of earthly power that is living toward a very different vision.


My mother always said, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  These competing visions are always both present.  Only occasionally do we recognize them for what they are and, on those occasions, we have to make a choice.  We can’t have it both ways.


Peter chooses.  “You are the Messiah.”  Peter doesn’t realize this but that is the easy part.


Then Jesus teaches the disciples what “Messiah” looks like when it comes from a place of God’s wildly inclusive love, of spiritual transformation, of New Creation.  It looks like suffering, rejection, humiliation, and death.


If “Messiah” conformed more closely to the earthly vision of Caesarea Philippi (or Washington, DC), it would look like power, albeit softened into some kind of benevolent world domination, backed up by military might, keeping the world peaceful and allowing the earthly empire to flourish.  It would look like Rome used to look.  It would look like every earthly empire has looked…briefly…from the point of view of those holding power in the empire.  It would look like glory and it would even look like the easier road.  All it takes is money and the right people in the right places.


Jesus denounces Peter’s misguided attempt to protect Jesus.  Jesus isn’t about self-protection.  His identity, his calling, his heart, is about self-giving love.  Loving the unlovely.  Accepting the rejecting.  Suffering under the blows of those who have no idea how self-destructive their worldly ambitions inevitably become.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, we always look for the easy way out.  Our ears perk up at every bit of insider information we can acquire.  So we still look to you to be our miracle worker, our divine healer, the one who always takes our side.  Today, with Peter, we are reminded of the deeper reality of love and the hard path that we walk when we follow you into the pain of the world rather than seeking our own escape.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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