In Mark 8 Jesus said something interesting. A few things, actually. He just got done telling the disciples that He was going to die which understandably shook them up a little bit and also made them kind of mad. Peter, remember, had just verbalized for the first time his thought that Jesus was the Messiah and then right on the coattails of that declaration Jesus says that He’s going to be killed by His enemies.
Peter must have been like, “wait, what?!”
By His enemies?
Mark tells us that Peter “took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.” Why? Because Messiah’s don’t die and if they do die, they certainly don’t die at the hands of their enemies. And so Peter (who just said he thinks Jesus is the Messiah) pulls Jesus aside to tell Him to stop with the crazy talk.
“Dude, I just gave you my support. I like literally just said a few minutes ago that you’re the Messiah, the One we’ve all been waiting for. And now you come out of left field with this dying crap? Knock it off.”
Show of hands, who thinks rebuking Jesus is a bad idea?
Jesus looked at Peter square in the eyes and said, “get behind me Satan.”
Really, Jesus? “I just gave you my support! I’m like your chief of staff and now you’re calling me SATAN?!”
I think this is a really good reminder for the church. Because Peter, you see, was rebuking Jesus because the things that Jesus was doing and the things that Jesus was saying didn’t really line up with what Peter’s tradition had handed him. According to Jewish teaching, the Messiah was going to raise up an army that would overthrow Israel’s enemies and put Israel back on top of the world again.
He would be the next Victor.
The next Warlord.
The next Mighty Warrior.
Tradition said that the Messiah would come and do amazing things, put Israel back on top again, and be the one to usher in the great Kingdom of God.
And so when Jesus started talking about being KILLED by the Empire as opposed to OVERTHROWING it, Peter began to twitch.
“You’re wrong, Jesus.”
“You’re not doing it right, Jesus.”
“This isn’t what the prophets foretold.”
“This isn’t what the rabbi’s have been teaching.”
“This isn’t what we’ve been waiting for.”
All of that makes me wonder how many times we do the same thing to Jesus today. Like, what if tradition is wrong about things like HELL? Or LGBTQ inclusion? Lots of churches preach week in and week out that people are going to hell for not believing in Jesus and lots of churches preach week in and week out that the LGBTQ community is going to be punished for who they are.
What if tradition doesn’t quite have it right? And what if our traditions have been misreading the Scriptures? And what if our own teachers have been misapplying those Scriptures?
Like, what if we’re wrong? Just as the teachers and leaders and scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day were wrong?
What if there is no hell, at least in the sense that we typically understand it? What if judgement doesn’t equal eternal damnation? And what if the LGBTQ community is not only welcomed and affirmed by God, but belongs at God’s table just as much as anyone else?
I imagine that if Jesus showed up in some of our churches this week and talked like that, some well meaning disciples and “Chiefs Of His Staff” would pull Him aside and rebuke Him.
... And I imagine He’d have something interesting to say in response.
Anyways, to continue with the story.
Then Jesus calls the crowd to Himself and begins to speak to them and refers to Himself as “the Son of Man”. You might remember back a month or so ago in an earlier post, we said that the term ‘Son of Man’ was a term that most Jews would have been familiar with as it was a character from the Old Testament book of Daniel. The Son of Man, said Daniel, was a representative of God’s people who would suffer at the hands of Israel’s enemies and then be vindicated as God set up His everlasting Kingdom through Him.
And so by taking the term “Son of Man” upon Himself, Jesus was letting everyone around Him know that THIS was how He understood His calling and His purpose and His mission:
To be vindicated.
To usher in God’s Kingdom.
Jesus ends His talk with the crowd by making an interesting promise ...
“I tell you the truth: some of you who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power.”
On first glance it seems like a failed promise, right? I mean, we’re still living on this messed up crazy earth. Wars are still raging around us. Every time I turn on the news there’s a new development of a new nightmare from a new country with some new insane leader. There’s still drugs, addiction, hatred, bigotry, murder, rape, shootings ... Jesus made this promise some 2,000 years ago and all of the people who were standing there that day are long, long dead and so at first glance it seems like Jesus’ promise didn’t pan out.
Here’s the thing.
The coming of God’s Kingdom with power (according to Jesus) has nothing to do with God destroying this world that He made and loves and creating a whole ‘nother one; rather, it has everything to do with the radical defeat of deep-rooted evil. Yes, according to Jesus and the Son of Man persona from Daniel 7, God’s Kingdom would come with power after an episode of extreme suffering and vindication.
The crucifixion was the suffering.
The resurrection was the vindication.
And the moment the stone rolled away from the tomb, death (“the wages of sin”, as Paul called it) was defeated, a slit was torn in the curtain that separates heaven from earth so that heaven began to trickle in, and one day when the Son of Man returns , He will bring all of heaven with Him and merge it with all of earth so that the two become one and suffering is eliminated forever.
That’s the Gospel, the Good News.
As ambassadors of that Good News, you and I have the responsibility to pull the curtain back further and further each and every day with each and every move we make and each and every word we speak. As followers of Jesus, that’s our job.
Our job isn’t to tell people they’re going to go to hell for not believing the right things.
Our job isn’t to convert people to our religion.
Our job isn’t to shame people who believe or think differently.
Our job, rather, is to “make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
.... to model the life of Jesus to the world around us, to invite people to live in a similar way in their own context, and to lock arms as we all go out and leak heaven out of our lives and into the lives of those around us.
May you be so full of heaven today that when someone bumps into you, heaven spills over, lights up their life, and squelches out the darkness that’s haunting them.
Much love, friends.