A Whole Lot of Rebuking
There's a whole lot of rebuking going on in these 8 verses. 2 are right, one is wrong, but they all have to do with the cross: the cross we think we get, understand, and embrace. We think we have no problem with the cross although the disciples struggled with the cross through 3 years of seminary under Jesus. It wasn't until the risen Jesus opened the Scriptures to them that they began to understand "it was necessary that the Christ must suffer to enter into glory." We know we need to be rebuked about this or that sin but surely not about the cross!
The first rebuke is Jesus of the disciples, but it's not translated in our insert. The insert says, "Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him." The translated warned' is really rebuked.' What a strange rebuke? Why shouldn't they trumpet from the rooftops that Jesus wasn't John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the other prophets? Why shouldn't they tell everyone that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah? Why shouldn't they repeat what according to Matthew was revealed to Peter by God the Father?
Because doing so would've gotten in the way of Jesus doing the real work of the Messiah. This connection is clearer in Luke's account. "Jesus strictly charged them to tell this to no one saying, The Son of Man must suffer many thingsetc." If the disciples had gone out saying "Jesus is the Messiah" how would He have gotten to the cross? Jesus said to Pilate, "If My kingdom was of this world then My people would fight for Me." The popular view of the Messiah was that he would bring worldly power and blessing. The name, the claim of Messiah was a flashpoint, a rallying cry. It would only get in the way of Jesus real mission: which was to be rejected by the Church and to be murdered by the State.
Jesus rebuked the disciples telling them not to tell people He was the Messiah. Do you feel rebuked? You ought to. You're being rebuked for thinking that Jesus' real mission was miracles, healings, or even teaching. Jesus did all those things, but they weren't His real mission. Moses, Elijah, and Elisha did all those things and Peter, Paul, and John would do all those things too. Jesus mission was not working the wonders that we would love to see, doing the healings we would love to have, or teaching the deep things of God we would love to know. Jesus mission was redeeming us.
That is so plain, so ordinary, but so necessary. No redemption and no eternal life. No redemption and all the wonders in the world, all the healings in the world, and all the teaching in the world is not going to save you. Yet, we regard wonders, healing, and teaching as the real work of Jesus. In fact, we feel shortchanged because all we get is redemption. Baptism only forgives sins; it doesn't even heal psoriasis. Absolution teaches nothing deeper then that your sins are forgiven which even a 3 year old can learn. And what sort of miracle is Communion? I only see Bread and Wine, not Body and Blood. I only see earthly things not heavenly.
I would trumpet Jesus healing me of even nearsightedness. I would trumpet a teaching of Jesus science marveled at. I would trumpet a wonder by Jesus that took people's breath away. But a Jesus who suffers many things rather than makes His enemies suffer; a Jesus who is rejected by the Church He is the head of; a Jesus who is murdered by the State He created; that's not the Jesus I really want to focus on. Yet, that's the only Jesus that redeems me, and I'm rebuked because I prefer the other Jesus.
I show myself to me is in sympathy with Peter who has sympathy for the devil. I am Peter, and Peter is really Satan. Us three, Peter, Satan, and I hang together because we all agree the path to Messiahship, the path to the victorious resurrection on the third day is not the way of the cross. The cross is not needed. It's not needed in Jesus' life, and it's certainly not needed in mine.
You can't believe how often I rebuke Jesus about this. "I don't need these problems. I don't need this trouble. This heartache, this pain, this affliction doesn't spread your kingdom on earth." But Jesus just doesn't get it; the hardships in my life get in the way of me doing big things for God. His kingdom just can't be served by my getting sick, frustrated, harassed, or bothered.
And do you know why I feel this way? Because deep down I don't think Jesus' cross was really necessary. That's because I don't see or believe how completely damned I am apart from His redemption. I think God is satisfied with my doing my best to keep His laws. I think God is able to wink at the unbelief, misbelief, and other great shame and vice in my life. I don't do any really big things wrong. True, I'm not afraid of His holiness. I don't trust Him when He makes promises to me. I don't love Him completely, but how bad is any of that?
What no earthly father should tolerate in his own home, his children not fearing, loving or trusting him, we expect the holy Father to accept. Though sinful, earthly fathers are enraged when they find a child doesn't fear, love, or trust them; we think the holy heavenly Father should not be or should be appeased by our doing our best. He's not. His wrath righteously burns against us, and there is nothing we can do to satisfy it. The Church should not shelter us; the State should not protect us. We should be rejected by both and punished by both after suffering much.
Now you see why the Son of Man must suffer many thing and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law (that is by the Church) and be killed (that is executed by the State)? It had to happen either to Him or you. Either imperfect, sinful, wretched you would go to the Church and not find acceptance but rejection or Jesus would. Either imperfect, sinful wretched you would go to the State for protection and find a death sentence or Jesus would. Either God the Father would punish you or Jesus for your sins. He punished Jesus; you are free, forgiven.
Big deep breath, but the rebuking isn't over, yet. Even though we see how wrong we are when we rebuke Jesus for the cross, we've yet to be rebuked by Jesus for it. And we need to be, this sin is deeply imbedded in us because it sounds so pious to protest Jesus going to the cross. Yet hear and see how satanic it is.
Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan!" This is fitting; Peter is speaking as Satan does and so Jesus addresses him as such. Satan said in the temptation, "I will give you the kingdoms of the world; you don't need to go to the cross to win them." And Satan will say at the cross itself, "Come down from the cross; then we will believe in You." You see; it all centers on that bloody, ugly, awful cross. As long as we view it as a stumbling block, something to be endured rather than embraced, something that gets in the way of Jesus and His mission rather than the real mission of Jesus, we are Satan.
But it doesn't feel that way. It feels smart, wise, religious, loving to steer Jesus or anyone else away from the cross. True religion is found in being active not passive. True Christianity is found in dong things for Jesus not suffering in His name and truth. True religion is offering things like self, money, and time to God not receiving from Him forgiveness, salvation and the cross. But this is turning things around as Peter did. It's not minding the things of God but the things of men.
Isn't this your problem? It sure is mine. Men tell me I need to care for myself, accept myself, love myself and God in Christ tells me I am to deny myself. I mind what men say more than what God does.
Men tell me I'm to bare my cross until it gets better. I'm to endure my cross until it lets up. My cross is a bump in the road, a detour, something foreign to God's real plan for me. God in Christ tells me my cross is a daily companion not a temporary one. It is not something foreign to God' real plan for me; it is His plan. Far from trying to save my life from the cross God in Christ tells me I'm to lose my life, myself, my all on that cross. Yet I'm mindful more of what men say then what God does.
Men tell me I'm to go before Jesus blazing a trail for Him. I'm to be out there in front leading the charge. Men tell me in essence I'm to be like Peter. I'm to tell Jesus how things are going to work out. I'm going to do this, this and this for you Jesus and this, this and this are going to be the results. Your name is going to be glorified by my plans. But God in Christ says He is to go be before Me. He calls me to follow not lead and to follow the path He takes me down. I'll tell you right now; I never choose the path of sickness, suffering, or death. I never choose paths where my plans, my will, my ways are frustrated, because I mind the things of men not God. Jesus, however, minds the things of God and He calls me to follow not choose.
And follow I do and you do to on the path of God not men. Yes, it leads into the valley of the shadow of death; yes it leads to being surrounded by your enemies, but it also leads to still waters, an overflowing cup, and a table, this Table, in the presence of your enemies. On the path that Jesus takes us, the path of the cross, the path of suffering, the path where things don't work out like they should and it seems like Satan triumphs, that's the path where God's goodness and mercy in Christ are. That's the path that leads to the house of the Lord where we can forever dwell.
Therefore, may we be rebuked a whole lot when we stray, are tempted to stray, or even complain about the path of the cross Jesus' takes us down. Such rebukes are the rod and staff of the Good Shepherd. They not only confront us; they comfort us. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Pentecost XVII (20061001); Mark 8: 27-35