Just this last week I got a text message from Bekkah and it was a picture that she must have found online somewhere. It said, “Jesus walks into a bar. ‘Just twelve waters, please.’ *winks at the disciples*”. Pretty cute, huh? It obviously makes us think of the wedding at Cana when Jesus turns the water into wine in John’s gospel ().
The wedding at Cana was Jesus first act of public ministry in John’s gospel and is a pretty incredible miracle if we stop and think about it. Last week we heard the story of how Jesus cures the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman. I know I focused on the animosity between Israelites and the Gentiles, but think about what Jesus did. He healed a girl without seeing her or really know where she was. He didn’t command the demon out like he had in the past, the demon was just gone because Jesus said it was. Although we didn’t have time to discuss it Jesus also healed a deaf man last week. Once the man’s ears and tongue were freed he ordered them to tell no one but the more he did it the more zealously people starting spreading the word about him.
The stories that we read and talked about before I was on my leave were mostly about Jesus healing different people with ailments and then trying to get away from the crowds because he needed some peace and quiet. We don’t get to hear this story, but the one that comes right before Peter’s declaration about Jesus being the Messiah, we have a story about Jesus curing a blind man, and once again Jesus orders the man not to return to the village when he goes home. Basically he doesn’t want the former blind man telling everyone that Jesus had cured him.
This whole idea of not telling people, and the subsequent people not listening to Jesus tell them to keep quiet, is a recurring theme in Mark’s Gospel. Today’s story is a twist on that theme that runs throughout. Instead of Jesus healing someone and telling them to keep it to themselves, Jesus wants to know if the disciples know who he is. After some of them tell Jesus who others have said he is, Jesus then asks them point blank and says, but who do you say that I am and Peter answers correctly that he is the Messiah. After Peter’s declaration he once again orders people, the disciples this time, not to tell anyone. Peter got it right. He got the answer right, but Jesus still doesn’t want people to know the answer.
Perhaps he thinks that the disciples don’t fully understand the answer. I think we can get some evidence behind that when Jesus then predicts his death and resurrection and Peter doesn’t want anything to do with that part of the idea of what it means to be the Messiah.
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?”
It might be like me trying to explain to you a microwave. I know how to operate a microwave, but I do not know the ins and outs of how a microwave actually works. Though, thanks to the internet, I have fixed a microwave that was broken.
So as I thought about the story of Peter calling Jesus the Messiah and then the whole ‘get behind me Satan’ () part and as I thought about the text that Bekkah sent me I started to form this idea about what it means to follow Jesus and what maybe it doesn’t mean to follow Jesus. Obviously the picture that Bekkah sent with the joke on it was meant as a joke to make someone laugh and remember the story of Cana, but it actually represents a much bigger problem, the problem that we see directly in our story about Jesus and Peter.
He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Do people follow Jesus because he is a glitzy miracle-worker? That’s what the whole joke is about isn’t it? It points to a Jesus using his powers from God to get free water from a bar so that he can turn it from water into wine for his 12 closest buddies. Jesus can then do that trick in front of everyone and they’ll all be impressed and continue to hang out with Jesus because he can do stuff like that. If you take a look at the story of the wedding at Cana, Jesus doesn’t seem to thrilled that he’s been asked to do this by his mother and he definitely doesn’t try to let anyone know what he has done.
Jesus doesn’t show up at the wedding or any other place for that matter to ‘wow’ the crowds with magic tricks so that they will follow him during his ministry. In fact, combined with the stories of all the healings and miracles that Jesus does in Mark’s gospel we have seen how hard he has tried to escape the crowds. He does that for some peace and quiet, but I am sure he has also done it because he doesn’t want them following him because he fed a few people (maybe a lot) or because he healed them.
We do see in the stories like the story from last week about the Syrophoenician woman and how it was her faith who made her daughter well that Jesus does see real faith in people. Maybe it was that understanding that some people got it while others didn’t that led Jesus to ask the question of the disciples; who does the world say that I am and then asking them pointedly who do they think he is. Most people thought he was a reincarnation of John the Baptist or the greatest of the prophets Elijah, while others simply thought he was one of the other great prophets of old. But when asked pointedly Peter responds that he is the Messiah. Even though he didn’t want them to share that revelation just yet he began to teach them for the first time what it means for him to be the Messiah by telling them about his death and resurrection. Even though Peter made the declaration of faith he couldn’t understand or couldn’t have a Messiah that was going to die so he tries to rebuke Jesus’ prediction.
But when asked pointedly Peter responds that he is the Messiah. Even though he didn’t want them to share that revelation just yet he began to teach them for the first time what it means for him to be the Messiah by telling them about his death and resurrection. Even though Peter made the declaration of faith he couldn’t understand or couldn’t have a Messiah that was going to die so he tries to rebuke Jesus’ prediction.
Jesus then rebukes Peter privately, but then declares to the crowd publicly, what it means and what it takes to be a follower of Jesus. As we can clearly see from his words, being a follower of Jesus isn’t about being impressed by hearing the story of water being turned to wine, or seeing Jesus cure a blind or deaf person. Being a follower of Jesus is about having faith in him and following in his steps. Following in his steps does include helping the blind and the deaf and all those who are in need of help, but that isn’t the only thing that defines who we are.
As Christians we don’t just follow the one who was triumphant with large crowds following him because he did great things. Our text also clearly points out that we must be willing to also follow Jesus into those places and times when it isn’t glitzy and glamorous to follow him. We need to follow Jesus into the outside places where the Syrophoenician woman lives and interact and engage with those people in our lives. We need to be willing to go and follow Jesus not just into Jerusalem with the cheers of crowds and waving branches, but we need to stay by his side when those fade away and all is left is the pronouncement of crucifixion. We also need to do the same thing with one another. We need to stand with each other and by each other through both the good and the bad times of life. We need to stand by each other when perhaps no one else will because that’s what Jesus did.
No one stood up for the tax collectors and the sinners, and no one would literally stand beside them except for Jesus. We need to stand with and for all those people. Jesus asks the crowds and asks us, ‘what is the point of having all of the good stuff in life if we aren’t able to actually make a difference? What is the point of having the good things in this life, if it does us no good in the life to come?’
In the end, which is what Jesus tells the disciples, is that the fame and the spotlight don’t matter to him. What matters most is that he follow God’s will and God’s plan. Despite all the temptations of what it means to be famous and have it all Jesus chose the path of the cross. Jesus chose to ignore and give up all those times when he could have gone into a bar and asked for 12 glasses of water so he could turn them into wine and impress his friends, because this world is more than just 12 people. This world is more than about putting on a show. Jesus invites us to take up our own cross and follow him. Even though no one followed him when he took up his literal cross, Jesus did the most flashy and glitzy thing in the world even though the world didn’t understand it at the time, and we know they didn’t understand because no one watched. Jesus paid the ultimate price, the ultimate entrance fee so that we would have an abundant life in this world and in the life to come.
Jesus gave his all for all of us, so that we might see what true life is like. Go out and live the way that Jesus has shown us to live, and truly appreciate all that he has done and continues to do for us even if we don’t fully understand or comprehend what he is doing in our lives.