September 12, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 8:27-36
The text for the morning is a part of the Lectionary Readings and most of the readings have a theme of wisdom.
Mark says Jesus and the twelve were walking between villages: “On the way, he asked them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” Easy question. They answer: “John the Baptist, Elijah, One of prophets.”
Do you feel a slight whisper of suspicion – wondering what this question REALLY means? What does he REALLY want to know?
The next words came from Jesus: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
There it is! Now perhaps there is a bit of a knot beginning to form in the pit of your stomach. Hmmm…. I wonder what’s going on here? Why the question? What does he want me to say? What’s the right answer?
I don’t know about the world in which Jesus lived, but in our world, questions often seem to have hidden agendas. You never know – they approach you like a friend but turn out to be a salesman for some cause. Their questions are pry bars that just want to break and enter – their smiles are false, trying to appear friendly while the motive is less than friendly.
Sometimes their questions are nothing short of weapons. Traps, if you will. We are asked a question and we know it is not an open, honest question, but a trap. Do you know what I mean? We’ve all been on both sides of those weapon questions: “You aren’t going to wear THAT are you?” “What’s the matter with you?” “What were you thinking?” “You don’t want to do that, do you?”
If you don’t answer the way that pleases the questioner, the trap will snap and you find yourself in the middle of an attempt to push you toward some cause you don’t want. Do you remember Amway?
The phone rings and it’s not a number we recognize so we shore up our defenses before we answer or we don’t answer at all. A message arrives on our phones or computers and before we know what it is, we are trained not to trust it!
So it is no wonder when Jesus says: “Who do you say that I am?” that a knot forms in our gut and we feel like we will never get out of this encounter without being wounded.
So as soon as that question is asked, we want to run. Maybe the truth is, we aren’t sure about who Jesus is or haven’t decided yet. We used to believe this, but lately we’ve begun asking some pretty serious questions and we aren’t sure anymore. Would I dare to tell the truth? If I did, would I be ridiculed, rejected, judged, strong-armed?
But the best, good news I can offer to you this morning may not be what you have heard anywhere else in your spiritual journey, but here it is:
JESUS ISN’T LIKE THAT!
That question is honest, because Jesus is honest. That question is not meant to skewer you because Jesus never acted like that. That question is not meant to trap you, because Jesus never laid a trap for anyone.
Now Peter is another matter. He is like the teacher’s pet who bounces up and down on his seat with his hands waving in the air obnoxiously while crying out: “Me, Me, Me! Call on me! I have the answer!”
He said the most extravagant thing he could think of: “I think you are the Messiah” (The One our nation has been looking for, for hundreds of years – The Savior who is going to save us from all our enemies – The Deliverer who is going to squash those Romans like the bugs they are!)
Jesus only says to Peter: “Don’t tell anyone that!” Now whatever that meant, you can’t simply dismiss Jesus’s request because all three of the gospels include that plea. That’s an unexpected answer from Jesus, but there is no misunderstanding about what is being asked. Do – not – tell – anyone.
So after that clear request, Jesus goes on to talk about what he sees in his immediate future: suffering, rejection, killing, and rising again. Peter was incensed! The Bible says: He REBUKED Jesus! With no way to be misunderstood, Peter was saying: That’s not what a Messiah, Savior, Deliverer looks like! You can’t be a Messiah and let yourself be subject to those kinds of things.
Peter was answering the question “who do you think I am?” by saying: “You are the Messiah, the Deliverer alright, but you are MY VERSION of a Deliverer and Messiah.
Jesus rebuked Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” In effect, he said to Peter, “If you’re going to be my follower, if you want to be on MY TEAM, at least make sure you understand what I mean by a Savior, a Deliverer.” The choice is absolutely yours as to how you answer the question. The question was honest and forthright. I just wanted to know where you are on this issue. No judgment. No expectation. But don’t take my message and make it suit your agenda.
How Jesus wants us to see who he is and make up our minds about that important question. How he wants to know where we are right now – where we stand honestly and forthrightly. He want to know so he can help us move in the direction we mean to go.
Jesus is like that! No trick questions. No questions with a poison dart. No questions with a hidden agenda. Just straight: “Who do you think I am?” Where are you right now – not where were you as a child – not where do your parents, friends, spouse expect you to be – but where are you now?
Wherever you are, Jesus can take your honest answers. You don’t need to dress it up or make it look like something else. Just be honest. Wherever you are, we can work with it if it’s the truth. You may not be able to say “yes” to the path that Jesus is actually on. Jesus loves you too much to pressure you to say “yes” when your heart says, “no way!” Your answer will not affect Jesus’ love for you. Just be sure your heart and your words match.
This honest interaction is so relevant for our time. What a refreshing thing it would be if the church could have that kind of open straight communication and as much genuine compassion and respect as Jesus offered those who wanted to follow him. May God gently lead us to that kind of Beloved Community.