September 17, 2000

Mark 8:27-38

Jesus and his disciples went to the villages near the town of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, "What do people say about me?"

The disciples answer, "Some say you are John the Baptist or maybe Elijah. Others say you are one of the prophets."

Then Jesus asked them, "But who do you say I am?"

"You are the Messiah!" Peter replied.

Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus began telling his disciples what would happen to him. He said, "The nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make the Son of Man suffer terribly. He will be rejected and killed, but three days later he will rise to life." Then Jesus explained clearly what he meant.

Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking like that. But when Jesus turned and saw the disciples, he corrected Peter. He said to him, "Satan, get away from me! You are thinking like everyone else and not like God."

Jesus then told the crowd and the disciples to come closer, and he said: "If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What could you give to get back your soul?

"Don't be ashamed of me and my message among these unfaithful and sinful people! I you are, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."


1. We do find ourselves to be two-faced. We are brave and cowardly, in turn. We step into the future and drag past baggage along.

In this two-facedness it is important to not get too identified with a particular face. One way of looking at this is with a translation from Eugene Peterson's, "The Message." He has Jesus confronting Peter with these word, "Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works."

It is important to speak specifically when correcting lest someone get the idea that the correction means their entire life is out-of-whack instead of needing to change one aspect of it. This is important community building work.

2. Christians still have a bit to learn from Buddhists and others around the issue of suffering. Hear Peterson, again, change the "cross" talk to this helpful image. "Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self."

In this regard it would be helpful to read anything by Thich Nhat Hanh as he reveals insights into the Christian tradition from the perspective of his background as a Vietnamese Buddhist.

3. So, did Peter get embarrassed by Jesus' straight talk about suffering and death and that was what led him to attempt to constrain the holy angels in Jesus' life? It does seem easier to get into triumphalism than into self-sacrifice. Yet, there is an important meeting place for the two in the witness of our own life to the people around us. The assurance of victory and the willingness to not be in control is part of the work all around us.

Many will find the Bill Moyer's special on PBS this week, "On Our Own Terms," (a reflection on death and dying) a helpful insight into this two-fold experience of Peter.

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