September 14, 2003

Mark 8:27-38

[27] Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, "Who do the people say I am?"

[28] "Some say 'John the Baptizer,'" they said. "Others say 'Elijah.' still others say 'one of the prophets.'"

[29] He then asked, "And you -- what are you saying about me? Who am I?"

[29] Peter gave the answer: "You are the Christ, the Messiah."

[30] Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: "It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive." He said this simply and clearly so they couldn't miss it.

[32] But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. "Peter, get out of the my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works."

[34] Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. 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. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

[38] "If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I'm leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you'll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels."

[The Message]


1. Can we begin talking about responses rather than answers? This particular answer seems to require Jesus to go on to talk about the some of the qualities of the Christ, the Messiah. His first corrective to the "answer" is that he speaks as the Son of Man. From there Jesus speaks of suffering, inappropriate guilt, death, resurrection. Each of these points could be a point of separation from Jesus, just like the bread/flesh talk in John 6.

If Peter had responded instead of answering he may have been able to receive these comments without over-correction. Answers tie us in with having to defend them. Responses allow growth and continued learning.

2. Who understands how GOD works? What do you think is the needed corrective in the congregation/ community of faith with which you are associated? What about your favorite caucus? And for yourself? What alternative vision might be helpful to raise to the answers swirling around you.

3. One way of identifying your embarrassment in regard to Jesus' expanded description of the Christ is to figure out which element you have the greatest difficulty living with. Can you suffer? Well, how do you think you are doing with the letter of the law in regard to human conditions? If your compassion is stronger than your condemnation of individuals, how do you feel when you consider the number of children who died today from hunger related causes or the imprisonment of sweatshop workers for your comfort? If this is cared for what might resurrection mean for you without sliding over into leaving resurrection as a unique quality of Jesus? And if this has become second nature to you, where are you with your expression of anger at un-understanding, at attempts to over-control and preemptively strike sources of peace?