Setting Jesus Straight

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  (Mark 8:31-32)

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had asked the disciples if they understood who he was.  He was not asking them if they knew his name, or where he was from, or his family history.  No, Jesus was asking them if they understood His position and His purpose. 

Peter responded that Jesus was the messiah, or the Christ, which means the "annointed one".  This title was reserved for a man that had been anticipated for hundreds of years, who would be sent by God to restore Israel and rule in righteousness.

Jesus responds to Peter's confession with futher explanation of what being the messiah would mean.  It meant that Jesus would suffer and die, then be resurrected.  There would be death so that there could be life.

Peter, clearly one of my favorite disciples, decides to take Jesus aside and set him straight.  Being clearly insightful, he carefully takes Jesus, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the bright and morning star, the lily of the valley, and the way, the truth, and the life, aside to straighten him out.  It was important to Peter, for Jesus to be informed on how the Messiah will act.

As this scene is nearly comical, we often repeat the same mistake on a daily basis.  We confess Jesus as Lord and master, and then spend our time through our prayers and actions correcting Jesus on what the best course of action should be, because our idea of who He is, is better than the reality of the historical Jesus in our minds.  We do this in a thousand different ways when we chose our preference to dominate, rather than serve; accumulate rather than give; judge rather than accept; and  punish rather than forgive.  We do these things, in the name of the Jesus we created and desire, instead of following the real Jesus.  We take Jesus aside and set Him straight...

The very next verse (verse 33), Jesus would call Peter "Satan" for his desire to twist the identity of Jesus.  Interestingly, one of the main schemes of Satan towards Jesus, is to try to have him misunderstand his identity.  Earlier, when Jesus is called to go to the desert for 40 days, each temptation began with "If you are the son of God, then.." (Luke 4:3-12).  Satan apparently had also tried to set Jesus straight.

A Couple of things to think about

1. Our confession of Jesus must focus on Him, not our desired image of him.  Jesus is not our celestial ATM, our confirmer of  every desire, or political promoter of our political leanings.  Jesus is the Son of God, the exact representation of God who is above and independent of our need driven categories.

2. We deny Jesus when we do not consider Jesus' words and teachings in our everyday life.  We are saying to Jesus that our way is better than his way.  When we do this we deny His identity.  Jesus would ask his followers "Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I say" (Luke 6:46). 

3. Following Jesus is a radical commitment to shared suffering.  We do not have problems with Jesus, the giver of blessings.  We struggle with the concept that it is in our suffering, as ambassadors of Jesus, that others are blessed.  That is a Christ centered vision.  Our problem is that we attempt to follow Jesus selfishly and for our own gain, and not for Jesus sake.

It has been said that God created humanity in his own image, and that we seek to return the favor.  Take time today to reconsider who Jesus is, What He is, and His purpose.  Its time to fall in love again with the real Jesus, not a caricature of Jesus that is a figment of our imaginations.  It is that Jesus who will set us straight and set us free.

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor