“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.” (Mark 8:27 – 30)
It may have started out as a casual conversation. Or it may have been Jesus opening up round of teaching and guiding his disciples. The foreknowledge ability of Jesus argues against the offhandedness of the question. That is – surely Jesus knew what his disciples thought and knew, just as assuredly as he knew what the crowd thought of him. Why then this prelude and pretext?
“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.” (Verses 31 – 33)
I want to slow down and carefully consider this collection of verses. Peter openly said his opinion – that Jesus was the Promised One. So Jesus began to teach them what/who the Promised One was, and what that meant. He said this clearly, as opposed to the analogies, metaphors, and parables he often used to teach. He wanted there to be no mistaking or misunderstanding in his instruction. But it concerned and upset Peter. Maybe because that was not the view he had of the Messiah. Or maybe Peter was too “close” to the friend and teacher Jesus to be faced with that loss – not matter the theological reason. It says here that Jesus did not immediately nor quietly rebuke Peter. No, it was after he quickly saw the faces/demeanor of the disciples. What might have Jesus seen there? The same demeanor and affect that he saw in Peter?
“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Verses 34 – 38)
But was it shame that Peter (and perhaps the disciples) expressed when he rebuked Jesus? If we go by the context of this passage, then I suppose yes. And was it then shame that was the “human things”? Dismay that Jesus would be brought so low when he had garnered such great attention? Or that the Messiah would be so vulnerable?
It has in recent decades become political “sport” to sling mud at high ranking politicians and leaders. I am not questioning whether or not they deserve it. I am simply saying that those in the limelight of society risk being maligned, insulted, and brushed aside. On the one hand, we lift up the well-known (my circle of who is targeted is expanding) and idolize them. On the other hand, we seek out their flaws and fallibility and use it to discredit them. Not even-handed, but vicious and demoralizing. Let us, beloved reader, be gentle on those we critique; and let us be mindful of Those Who truly have no flaws! Shalom & Selah!