Mark 8:27–33 ESV
And 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 told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
There are human concerns and then there are the concerns of God. We humans are concerned about so many things and surely God must be concerned with some of the things that concern us. I suspect, however, that God is not concerned with many of the things that concern us. In fact, many things we concern ourselves with can choke out the life of God in us. Remember the parable of the sower and the seed that fell in the thorny ground?
“And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.” (Mark 4:18–19 NRSV)
The opening scripture sheds some light on at least a couple of the concerns of God. First, God is concerned with our knowing Jesus Christ and who he is. He wants us to get it not like an answer on a test but as a deeply personal relationship. “You are the Messiah.” It’s one thing to say Jesus is God, which is accurate. It takes it a step further to say God is Jesus.
Second, he wants us to get the way God works and accomplishes his purposes in the world. Remember Isaiah’the text running alongside Mark’s storytelling? Isaiah put it this way:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:8–9 NRSV)
Peter was not thinking this way. He was holding on to the Israeli dream’the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Because he thought he knew how the future should unfold and the role Jesus would play, he tried to veto the plan Jesus put forward. Jesus responded pretty sternly, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
The plans of God will often make no sense to us. And the more confident we are in our own conflicting plans the more absurd it will feel. My own life bears this out in a small way. I spent the better part of a decade preparing for a career in public service. I earned degrees in public administration and law, passed the bar exam, and went to work. I served on the staff of then Senator David Pryor in Washington D.C. Then the itinerary changed. I began to discern a calling to full-time work in the church. I was not having it! I suspect my early reactions to this change in direction had something of the effect of rebuking Jesus. I’m still learning along the way the meaning of saying, “You are the Messiah.” It’s another way of saying yours is the kingdom. It’s shorthand for, “your way is higher, better, and truer.” To say, “You are the Messiah,” means saying something like, “I am no longer my own but yours.” It’s the ultimate pledge of trust and promise of obedience. It means to trust that the concerns of God also include God’s concern for me. “You are the Messiah.” It must come to mean more every time we say it. Let that be our concern today.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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