Proverbs 1:20-33 – Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 19 Alternate – Psalm 116:1-9 James 3:1-12 Supplementary – Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 – 8:1 Mark 8:27-38
JESUS’ disciples are undergoing a very intense apprenticeship with Jesus, and it is about to get intense as he begins his journey to Jerusalem. Before embarking on his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus pause and checks in with his disciples. Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples answered him saying: “Some say you are John the Baptist; others say you are Elijah or one of the prophets”.
The responses where not off the mark, but they do not adequately get to the heart of the matter.
Then Jesus asks the same question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers him: “You are the Christ”. Peter gave the right answer but logically his answer was not. The word “messiah in Hebrew and ‘Christ’ in Greek was associated in the Jewish tradition with an anointed king, a royal figure from the line of David to come and free Israel from heir Gentile oppressors. Nothing in Jesus’ career up to now has given indication of claims to royalty or political ambitions.
Peter hoped that when they reach Jerusalem, Jesus will finally take his messianic role. But as soon as Jesus spoke of his career as Messiah, rejection, suffering and death-Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him.
Peter’s response is understandable considering the messianic expectations. We all do that. We want someone who is strong and powerful, someone who will rescue us from all our financial troubles and defeat our enemies. This is how often Jesus is presented in popular evangelism as a kind of super hero who will solve all our problems.
The question that Jesus asked the disciples, is the same question before us today. Who do we say that Jesus is? We can give different answers, and perhaps all of them right.
On the contrary, Jesus expressed the identity of the Christ as someone who must suffer; he would be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed. Peter could never accept a suffering Christ. He could never accept a weak Christ who would be put to death by the enemies.
Hence, Peter began to rebuke Jesus and correct him. The response of Jesus to Peter’s rebuke is very harsh. He tells Peter: “Get behind me Satan”. Jesus has never used the word Satan. This is one of the moments in Scripture that highlights the vast distance between God and us
Hence, dear friends, how is this good news? Because the whole story tells us of Jesus’ faithfulness unto death, even while everyone else proved faithless and in this God raised him to new life. Because of this we can know that there is nothing so great a sin or failure that can separate us from the love of God.
The Rev. Isaias Ginson is priest of The Episcopal Church. He is currently priest in charge of the Episcopal church of St. Margaret’s in Plainview, NY.
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