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Pentecost 12: a short, sharp, smack

"Get Thee Behind Me Satan" by James Jacques TissotWhat the hell was Peter thinking, (literally)? Last week he seemed so on-the-ball on the identity question: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16.16). He seems to have a grasp on both who Jesus was and whose Jesus was. That is, his identity and his relationship with the Father. Bummer for him that these were just warm-up questions for today’s challenge: What Jesus was.

First, a quick footnote about Messianic expectations in first century Palestine. Yes, there were Jews that were expecting a Messiah, but there were also those who weren’t. Further, some seem to distinguish between several different Messiahs. So the notion that there was some consensus about what the Messiah was to be like (e.g. a military leader to kick out the Roman occupation) and that Jesus failed to meet that expectation is well-meaning malarchy. It’s a tidy narrative that fits well (especially with John’s Gospel), but the truth is that Messianic expectations were all over the map.

This is important because it means that Peter was not simply repeating the conventional wisdom of his milieu when he rejects Jesus’  own holy “what” of suffering, death, and resurrection. Peter had put some thought into this. Peter had ideas. Peter had plans. And when those ideas clash with those of Jesus…Peter chooses badly.

The satanic temptation is to forget that following Jesus means leaving other things behind. Part of the price of costly grace is abandoning false ideologies no matter how satisfying or comfortable they might feel. Instead of jumping to the defense of his ideas about the what of Jesus, Peter should have just shut the hell up (literally) and listened.

Was Jesus too harsh? I don’t think so. I’m reminded of Zen masters who whack their meditation students with sticks to help them focus. Nothing sharpens the mind like a short, sharp, smack. It’s not punitive, it’s corrective. In our efforts to make a “buddy Jesus” we can put on our dashboards (all thumbs-up and smiles), we ignore moments like this corrective smack.

How often in my own life have I jumped to the defense of my own carefully carved idols? Am I able to hear the rebuke of Jesus as a critique of my own failures to be intellectually and theologically humble?

 

About Tay Moss

Priest, blogger, diplomat: Tay Moss helps people navigate God's crazy universe with humor, good food, and an occasional idea. He is leading his congregation (Messiah, Toronto) through major transition as they launch a fresh expression of church. His professional interests include missional church, new media, and the mysterious arts of the priesthood such as manual acts and cassock-wearing. In spirituality: a monastic. In management: a skipper. At home: a cook. A man with too many hobbies, Tay also finds himself sailing, cooking, watching TV, producing videos, brewing, and building canoes. He can be followed on twitter (@taymoss), pinterest (wtaymoss), youtube (taymossninjapriest), and facebook (tay.moss).
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3 Responses to Pentecost 12: a short, sharp, smack

  1. Just one thing I want to mention ,you said ” Peter had put some thought into this. Peter had ideas. Peter had plans” This revelation was not revealed to him by man or mans wisdom, in fact through mans wisdom and deduction, man will never come to this realization. the Bible says “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Peter would have never come to this conclusion if God had not revealed it to him and opened his eyes.

    • Tony, I think you misread me. The notions that I am talking about in this part of the article I wrote were the same notions that earns him a sharp repuke from Jesus. Peter had some ideas–ideas that the Messiah would certainly not be rejected and killed. These ideas are most decidedly NOT from God. Indeed, Jesus characterized them as demonic, “Get behind me Satan.” Peter had to surrender his ideas about what he thought the Messiah would be like in order to listen and believe the Word.

      • You are right ,how often do we all need that short sharp smack to get us back into a right way of thinking “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

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