|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on March 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM|
Mark 8: 27-38
March 4, 2012
I hate getting yelled at. My husband is one of the sweetest and most patient men ever and I don’t think he’s so much as raised his voice with me more than 2 or 3 times since I’ve known him. And yet, when he says anything that is slightly critical of me, even when I know that I deserve it and that I am in the wrong, it feels like I’m being yelled at even if he doesn’t raise his voice. So I think it’s more than being yelled at. I don’t think I, or anyone else, like being corrected or being reprimanded.
And maybe that’s why, with all the words that Jesus is speaking today, the words that stick out of our gospel lesson tonight are those moments of Jesus reprimanding Peter. “Get behind me, Satan.” They sounds so harsh that they make us want to run up to Peter’s defense and give him a hug (if we’re a hugging sort of person) or at least tell him it’s ok, to try and make him feel better. When someone gets reprimanded we want to help take the sting of those words away.
And those words don’t just sound harsh to us. They didn’t sound any better back in Jesus’ time. Calling someone Satan was no nicer then than it is now. And the word that describes how Jesus is speaking, the word “rebuke” tends to only be used in Scripture when Jesus is speaking to demons, demanding that they come out of a person and be gone. These are strong words, not gentle ones that take Peter’s feelings into account. They are words that assert Jesus’ power and authority over whatever gets in the way. And, frankly, Jesus is probably yelling or raising his voice when he says them. Jesus wasn’t so mild mannered as we make him out to be sometimes.
When we talked about this passage at Bible study on Thursday, some of our students thought that Jesus’ words and the whole “Get behind me, Satan” thing seemed a little cruel for the Jesus we know and a little dismissive of Peter. It just seems like a bit much to say when we could see ourselves saying the same thing.
Because Jesus had just told his disciples that he “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.” It’s a lot to take in if you hadn’t heard the whole story of Jesus like we have. And it’s a lot to take in from your beloved teacher that you want to stay with you. It’s especially disturbing to Peter who has just declared that this Jesus is the Messiah- the one that God sent into the world to save us. So this is not how the Messiah should be treated. It’s not the way he knows that things should go in the world. It’s so very, very wrong that Peter can’t keep silent.
So after all this sad talk about death and suffering, Peter takes Jesus aside and says, “No, Jesus. This is not how it will be. You are the Messiah. We are your followers. This can’t happen. We won’t let it happen. Don’t sound so defeated and talk so much about death, Jesus. We have work to do in the world. So pep up and lets get on with the healing and teaching stuff we’ve been doing.” While we may see it as a pep talk and an honest, caring conversation, the Scripture says, “Peter rebuked Jesus.” Honestly, after reading this Scripture many, many times, last night was the first time I ever noticed that long before Jesus said a word to Peter, Peter had yelled at him. Rebuked him. Told him in no uncertain terms that he should not suffer and be rejected and killed.
Peter was trying to put his own thoughts, his own expectations and his own hopes first. He was trying to make the future the way he thought it should be and how he hoped it would be. He was trying to make things ok- the way he thought they should be in God’s world. But Peter didn’t have the eyes to see the way ahead. He only had human eyes, like all of us. And he could not know the ways of God.
And it is only then that Jesus raises his voice and tells Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” He speaks as strongly to Peter as he did to the devil in the wilderness after his baptism, when the devil tried to tempt him with worldly power and privilege. Do not tempt me to take the easy route because it doesn’t seem right or fair. Don’t try to protect me from the will of God. And do not tempt me to go the way you want me to go because you are scared to follow me where I must go.
For Jesus tells Peter and us, “you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” It may make sense to you that I should not suffer, it may make sense to avoid the cross, but it is not the way of God. You are setting your mind on human things and human values. That’s not what I’m about.
They are hard words to hear when most often we are standing right with Peter. When Jesus calls us to leave all our plans and expectations aside to follow, we want to protest the same way Peter did. When Jesus calls us to tells us that the way he walks and the way of following him leads through suffering that we could easily avoid, we want to find another way. And the world is plenty willing to help us with that. We can find all sorts of ways to justify wanting to avoid the suffering that comes from following Jesus. There are plenty of ways to make ourselves feel decent about protecting ourselves and say we’re only human to make those choices. We’ll find plenty of folks around us to support us when we make Jesus’ words easier to live by, when we try to take shortcuts, when we seek after success and privilege rather than humble following. Seeking out our own comfort, following our own dreams, trying to make life play out the way we want it to and the way we think it should for us makes a lot of sense. That’s what our friends tell us to do. And our teachers. And our world. And it’s what we tell ourselves.
And yet, no matter what excuses we come up with for wanting to avoid suffering, avoid following, avoid the cross, nothing will change the fact that this is not the way of Jesus. It is not the way that God brings life. It is not the way that leads to life abundant for us and for all those we share the world with. It is not the way that breaks us open to love and be loved. It is our way, but it is not God’s way.
And that it why we need Jesus to yell at us, even when it hurts and even when it doesn’t seem fair. He has to rebuke in order to get past all our defenses and selfishness and our own certainty that we know the way life should play out. Jesus has to keep reminding us in strong, uncompromising words- “Going the comfortable way you have planned may make sense to you, but it is not my way. It may be human to want to avoid suffering and avoid the cross, but it is not the way that our God of love has prepared for us.” You can’t fully understand God’s ways, you never will this side of heaven, so simply get behind me and follow. Get behind me, for I am the one in charge. I know the way that leads to life and to God. So you, and anyone else who intends to come with me, have to let me lead.
You simply have to walk with me to understand. And the way that I will walk always leads to the cross. It will always involve suffering for the sake of loving the world. It will always mean choosing love and serving others rather than comfort or security. It will always mean leaving behind your expectations of how life should go in order to be surprised by my blessings. It will always mean letting me lead rather than choosing the way yourself.
And, Jesus tells us, it will always mean walking the way with me, with your God. It will always mean walking with the one who loves you so desperately that he will never lead you astray. He will never leave you alone on the road. And he will never lead you where he will not go first.