Still turning water into wine here…
Mary, despite not actually asking her son to fix the problem of the wine running out, clearly shows a trust in him to be able to do something. So when Jesus says to her “What’s that for us?”, “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” So Jesus looks around and notices there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. He notices these six stone jars, or water pots. These water pots are empty, they are for the mikvahs. They use these water pots to fill the mikvahs. If we ever were to visit Jerusalem, you will see these around. Mikvahs are dug into the ground, into the stone, with steps leading into him. What they are is baptistries. They are not bathtubs, they are not ancient hot tubs. They are used for ritual purification. Several times a week. an observant Jew would properly fill his mikvah with the proper kind of water blessed, by the rabbi. Then he would go down into the water, repeat the prayers, dunk himself seven times, and observe the rituals that he might be ceremonially pure.
So at this wedding we had some of these stone water pots used for filling the mikvah. They are empty. Each one has between 20-30 gallons of capacity. If you fill six of them it’s between 120 to 180 gallons of water, so let’s call it 150 gallons here. So Jesus tells says to the servants “Fill the jars with water.” To which I can imagine these servants rolling their eyes. “Oh brother. Another super religious guy. Instead of partying all night we’re all going to have to go down to the mikvah and get baptized again.” But they do it. It’s going to take a while. Remember, they don’t have hoses or spigots to use and easily fill these things up. This required drawing the water out of the well, it takes a lot of time and effort to draw 150 gallons of water.
“And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” Ok Jesus. Sounds a little strange. But they do it anyway. They take water out of the stone jar for ritual purification. They put it in a wine cup and take it to the chief steward, but somewhere in transit, somewhere along the way, a miracle happens. The water has turned to wine.
The steward doesn’t know anything that’s been going on. He just knows the wine has run out. But the servants come to him, “Here you go, try this out.” “So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Think about the baffled bridegroom. He has no idea what the steward is talking about. All he knows is that he’s heard rumors that they are running out of wine, and all of a sudden now there’s tons of it. The master of the feast is poking him in the side, grinning – “Oh, you’ve really fooled us! You kept the very best wine until now!” To which the bridegroom said what? “Praise the Lord!!??”
But Jesus has done it!! The little wedding in Cana of Galilee, on the verge of catastrophe, suddenly is supplied with 1000 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon. And Jesus gives a wink to his mom. “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” John 2:11 NLT. And John says Jesus revealed his glory. Jesus revealed his glory, which means his beauty. Imagine being one his 6 disciples there. Imagine following this rabbi, just starting to follow, then you see the sign, you see the water turned to water.
And Jesus revealed his beauty. This is a beautiful story. There is something fun, something whimsical about this story. Later, most of Jesus’ miracles are framed in a life and death scenario. A leper, his life ebbing away. Disciples in a boat, threatened with imminent death from a storm. Here’s a little girl who’s in fact already died. There’s a deep, dark frame around a lot of Jesus’ miracles. But this one, there’s none of that. Yes, we might want to save the family from social embarrassment, but there is no way this is crucial to anything. This is just a whimsical miracle, where Jesus, in order to keep the wedding going, gives a sign. It’s not just a party trick, it’s a sign.
What’s the sign pointing to? In the Old Testament, the abundance of wine was often symbolic of God’s favor and blessing. Likewise, ruined vineyards and a scarcity of wine was symbolic of the absence of God. So as the prophets began to imagine the time when God would come through his Messiah, anticipating the day when messiah would come and bring the righteous reign of God with all of its blessing and abundance, they use language like this – “…the vats shall overflow with wine…” Joel 2:24 ESV, “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” Amos 9:13 ESV, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine…” Isaiah 25:6 ESV. It’s as if they are saying Oh, and the rivers will flow with wine…
That’s the anticipation, the prophetic vision. So, in a beautiful and artistic way, Jesus, in turning the water to wine and providing an abundance of it, has announced that the reign of God at last has arrived. Remember, in the story, the steward says to the bridegroom But you have kept the good wine until now. John’s gospel is very sophisticated. It’s as if he knows and trusts his readers will read this over and over in a thoughtful way, and he hides all these gems in it. So, Jesus is also the bridegroom, is he not? Jesus is the bridegroom…
So think of it like this – in previous days, in earlier times Israel had had some good wine. In the days of Moses, when they are brought out of Egypt, and God is present in a cloud by day and fire by night, giving them the Torah, they had some good wine. In the days of David, when the kingdom was coming and the sweet psalmist of Israel was reigning and ruling, they had some good wine. But then, the exile. For about 500 years, all you could say is, they have no wine. The wine has run out. The good days are gone, they have no wine.
But now…JESUS IS ON THE SCENE!!! Not only is there wine, it’s the best wine!!! We can say, We had some good times with Moses, we had some good times with David, but the BEST has been saved for now!! AMEN!
When Jesus is on the scene, good things are about to happen. Why was Jesus at this wedding? Because he was invited! Hey, remember that carpenter guy over in Nazareth? He did some work for us, he’s a cool guy. What’s his name? Oh yeah, Yeshua of Nazareth, 101 Olive Street, Nazareth. And just because they invited Jesus, they got the miracle. So when you’re going through your struggle, your thing, your situation, your problem, and you’re going through it, invite Jesus. JESUS, want to come to my party, my mess, my marriage, my addiction, my life, my business, my thing? I got this thing going on Jesus, want to come? And don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him. Because you never know what Jesus is going to do. Think about it, nobody would have thought I know what to do, we’ll invite Jesus and he’ll perform a miracle and turn all this water into wine. Nobody would have ever dreamed that up. Only Jesus. So don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him to your thing. Because where Jesus shows up good things are about to happen. But Jesus tends to show up where he’s invited.
So invite him.
Question for you. What does it mean to be a Christian? Does it mean to believe something about Jesus? Yes it does, but only as a starting point. Because we believe something about Jesus, we begin to follow him. But ultimately, to be a Christian means to embark on a life of imitating Jesus. But I’m afraid that we have defined being a Christian as only something we believe about Jesus. We believe something about Jesus, this alters our afterlife expectation so that now we are going to heaven and not hell when we die, and therefore we are a Christian. Right?
NO!!! To be a Christian means you have intentionally embarked upon a life of imitating Jesus. He has become your mentor, your teacher, your rabbi, your professor, you master. You are the disciple. You are the student, the learner, you are the pupil, you are the one who is following his way of life. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
Anything short of that is short of being a Christian. Just saying I believe something about Jesus that changes my afterlife, this does not make you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is deliberately, intentionally embarking upon a life of imitating the way Jesus lived his life. This makes you a Christ-like one, a Christ-ian, a disciple of Jesus.
Human beings have lost our way. I am serious. We don’t know how to be human. Cats know how to be cats, dogs know how to be dogs, but humans have lost the way of being human. We think that the way to be human is to fight, kill, keep score, get even, and paybacks. This is what Cain did when he refused to see his brother as his brother. He kills his brother, lies to himself and God about it, and goes off and starts civilization. That’s the beginning of Genesis chapter 4. At the end of Genesis 4, seven generations later, we come to Lamech, who says “…I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”” Genesis 4:23-24 ESV. What does this do? It puts the world on a completely destructive course leading to the deadly days of Noah and the flood that nearly destroys humanity. What happens is that Christ has to come much later and give us a whole new meaning of seventy times seven.
Cain says “If my brother is in my way I’m going to kill him. My vengeance will be seven-fold.” Lamech says “it’s going to be seventy times seven for me.” And the world is out of control, baptized in violence, under the flood of judgement nearly destroying the human race.
When Jesus comes, he comes as the word, the logos, the logic of God made human flesh. You want to know what God thinks? Want to know what God’s opinion is? Want to know how God looks at things? Up until Christ we have hints, we have prophets, we have guesses, ideas, psalms, we have stories, but when we get to Christ we have the logic of God made flesh so that we can actually look at him and say “that’s what God is like.” The apostle Paul tells us “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God…” Colossians 1:15 NLT. He is the image, greek word icon, of the invisible God. God is invisible so that we are guessing, we are wondering, we are speculating what God is like. Some get it right, some get it kinda right, some get it wrong, some get it a lot wrong.
But when Jesus comes the mystery begins to be solved. We can look at the icon of Christ, who is the flesh and blood manifestation of the logic of God. We begin to know what God is like when we look at Jesus.
But Jesus is not just the icon of God, but also the icon of what the apostle Paul calls in Ephesians 2:15 the new humanity. Things go wrong with Adam and Eve. Things go wrong with Cain and Abel. Things go very wrong with Lamech. We’ve lost our way. We don’t know how to be human. Jesus comes not only as the icon of the invisible God, but also the icon of what human beings are to be like. Jesus gives us a new way to be human.
Jesus doesn’t just do things for us that requires only a response of passive faith. Jesus blazes a trail for us to follow. Too often we think “Jesus came, did all this for us, and I just believe, so everything is good.” No. Jesus came, blazed a trail, then said come on, follow me! When Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John on the Sea of Galilee, follow me, it’s a call to all of humanity. It’s a call to you, too. Jesus is not just doing something for us so that we can sit by passively. “Yes I believe Jesus did that. Hallelujah. It’s going to be a great afterlife. Let’s sing a hymn and go home.”
No. Jesus comes, blazes a trail, and calls to the human race, this way! Follow me. Do it the way I do. I’m going to show you how to live life right. You have forgotten how to be human. You have forgotten how to bear the image of God. You have forgotten to be what you were supposed to be. I’m going to show you again. Follow me.
Jesus did not live and die and rise again just to save us from afterlife consequences. Jesus lived his life to show us as human beings how to live our lives. He did not just die on the cross for you, he calls out pick up your cross and follow me!!
What Jesus did on the cross is the defining moment of his life. It was inevitable and right that the Roman cross would become the symbol of the Christian faith. If we want to pick a single moment, from his birth, his miracles, his life, his teaching, and message, if we want to pick a defining moment from the life of Jesus Christ, you will find none better than Christ upon the cross, arms outstretched in offered embrace, saying father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
In that moment, we find the clearest picture of what God is like. We also find the new picture of who we are to be like. We see our model. We find the cruciform standard for true beauty. Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the truest revelation of who God is.
Another question. Does the dominant expression of public Christianity in America look like Christ on the cross loving and forgiving his enemies. What if we surveyed the “man on the street”, asking them if the dominant form of Christianity in America, expressed as modern evangelicalism, publicly expressed in this land, does it remind you of Christ upon the cross forgiving his enemies? How is the dominant form of public Christianity in America identified? Does it remind you of Christ upon the cross forgiving his enemies?
If the answer is no, then we should be alarmed. We should be deeply troubled. We should be seeking to repent and change things. But enough of the small talk. I’ll get to the point. If we have to express public contempt and thinly veiled hate for liberals, gays and Muslims in order to prove what good Christians we are, we have invented a false religion that takes the name of Christ in vain. I understand it feels right, but it’s wrong. It looks nothing like Jesus.
I don’t want those dark eyes anymore. I don’t want a dark soul. I don’t want a soul made dark because I spend my life looking at others through the squinty eyes of judgement. I want to look at others with the wide eyes of love and wonder knowing that they, too, are loved by God. I will not play the us vs them game.
We have a public expression of Christian faith that has been almost entirely defined by a quest for power. As Dr Russell Moore, a leading theologian among the southern baptists, said a few years ago “For far too long, American Christianity has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it.” What a disaster.
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,”. Colossians 1:15 NLT
“by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,” Ephesians 2:15 NIV
We read and pray Psalm 88 and we find that “my eye grows [dark] through sorrow…” Psalms 88:9 ESV. Some people have dark eyes from the sorrows they have seen in life. They say the eyes are a window to the soul. You can look in some peoples eyes and they tell a story, oftentimes a story that is sad. Some people have dark eyes because of the sorrows they have seen in life, we understand that.
But some people have dark eyes because of the way they look at life. Jesus talks about that in the sermon on the mount. “”The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23 ESV. Jesus talks about the eye, how we look at life, being the lamp of our entire being. He says this in the sermon on the mount in the context of where he is talking about money. The text is bracketed by Jesus speaking about those who would be his disciples and how we view money. Right before this text, he says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 ESV. At the end of this passage he says “.…You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24 ESV.
So this dark eye that causes our being to be filled with darkness has something to do with a wrong approach to money. We could say it like this : there are those who go through life with the squinty eyes of greed. The squinty-eyed have dark eyes that darken their own soul because they have learned to look at life in the wrong way. We can look at life through the squinty eyes of greed, calculation, and cynicism. There is a way of looking at life through little slits, sizing people up, looking for an advantage, calculating, cynical, jaded, greedy. If you look at life that way, the light pouring into your soul is in fact darkness. We can look at life with the squinty eyes of greed, calculation and cynicism, but we end up with dark eyes and a dark soul.
Or we can look at life with wide-eyed wonder, love and acceptance. With our eyes wide open, wide-eyed wonder of love and acceptance, we have bright eyes and a bright soul. Some have dark eyes because of how much sorrow they have seen in life. But some have dark eyes because of how they shut out the light by how they look at life.
But the gospel message is this – Jesus can save us from both the dark eyes of sorrow and the dark eyes of cynicism. So that if you have seen so much sorrow and pain and suffering in your life, and you feel like your soul has been darkened, I want to tell you the good news that Jesus can come to you and heal you from your sorrows. He can give you bright eyes and a bright soul.
And if you’ve been looking at life through the squinty eyes of greed, calculation and cynicism, Jesus wants to teach you a brand new way of looking at life through the wide eyed wonder of love and acceptance so that you can have bright eyes and a bright soul…
Last time I wrote, I finished by saying that Jesus had to react so strongly to Peter’s rebuke (accusation?) at Jesus’s telling to the disciples 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 because this rebuke/accusation from Peter (You’ve got the wrong idea of what it means to be Messiah Jesus!) had the potential to put self-doubt in the mind of Jesus. And yes, Jesus could suffer from the temptation to self-doubt. To doubt oneself is a very human thing to do, and Jesus was very human of very human….and therefore subject to all the temptations we humans suffer with.
Was Jesus tempted with self doubt? I don’t know the answer to that question for sure, but it’s certainly possible. And I do know this – everybody doubted Jesus. And I do mean everybody. Think about the struggle this would cause for you and I.
Think about the struggle Jesus must have had with this. He was doubted by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. Did this affect him? I don’t know, but they were the authorities, the scholars, the theologians, and they were saying Jesus, you’re vision is wrong. Did this induce any self doubt? I don’t know, maybe not. We’ll say that no, it didn’t.
Jesus was doubted by his own disciples. That’s got to hurt. He was doubted by his own brothers – “For not even his brothers believed in him.” John 7:5 ESV. Even worse than that, Jesus’ own mother doubted him. “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”” Mark 3:21 ESV. We read this and chuckle, but there’s nothing funny going on. This is a family intervention. Mary gets James and Joses and Judas and Simon, Jesus’ four brothers, maybe some of his sisters, and says to them “Jesus is mentally unstable. Your older brother is mentally unstable. He’s got these ideas and they’re just going to get him killed. We’ve got to intervene.” And they go to seize him because they think Jesus is suffering a mental breakdown.
Think I’m reading too much into this? Maybe. But let’s skip 10 verses later, and what does it say? “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.“” Mark 3:31-35 ESV. We like to spiritualize this, I would say we over-spiritualize it. This is a serious family situation. Jesus is with a group of disciples, they had just tried a family intervention and they are coming to try again. Mom and the brothers send word in to Jesus that they are looking for him, and Jesus says what? “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Hmmmmpht. My brothers and my mother??!! These people that are hearing the word of God and doing it, these are my mother and brothers! Ok, when your mom calls you, just say “Who is my mother”, and let me know how that works out for you. This is a very tense family situation.
They don’t believe in him. They love him, but they don’t believe in him. They don’t believe he can go about being Messiah and live the Sermon on the Mount at the same time. He has this idea, somehow, that he’s going to liberate Israel and bring about the kingdom of God, yet not kill anybody!! Turn the other cheek and bring the kingdom of God? That’ll never work. That’ll just get you killed Jesus….and that’ll be the end of that.
Know what’s really heartbreaking, when you think about it?? Jesus went to the cross with NOBODY believing in him. They loved him, yes, but they did not believe in him. James loved him, John loved him, Peter loved him. Other disciples loved him. Judas, maybe not. Mary Magdalene loved him, his mother loved him. Yes they loved him. But they did not believe in him. They believed Jesus had missed it. He’d had the potential to be Messiah, he coulda been Messiah. But he clung to his lofty ideals, and now the whole thing is falling apart, and just like they said he went and got himself killed. And in the eyes of those whom Jesus most cared about, he was dying as a failure. Please try to imagine how hard that must have been…to go through all that with nobody believing in him. That’s why in the Garden of Gethsemane an angel had to come and strengthen him. He had to have a direct message from the father. You’re doing the right thing. Don’t give way to self doubt now. Don’t let those negative people and comments get through to your psyche and cripple you. Stay the course.
When people get into their head that messiah, Christ, is to be a certain way, it’s almost impossible to change it. If you try to change their idea of Christ, you will be subject to accusation. Even Jesus did not succeed in changing people’s understanding of what it means to be Christ until after his resurrection. They just could not accept, and their response was to do what Peter did, and accuse him of making a mistake.
When we begin to discover Christ in a deeper way, when we begin talk about Jesus in a different way, when we take the American varnish off of Jesus and show people that Jesus is not an American committed to the American dream and our superpower status, and that in fact the American way and the Jesus way are not the same way but are often at odds with one another, people might say all kinds of things about you. Just like his own countrymen said all kinds of thing about Jesus for showing that God was not just God for the Jews, but for Gentiles and the whole world as well.
But it was true. It’s still true. We need to come to see Jesus as he is, Christ for all, not just a nationalized Christ, the American Jesus. But this messes with peoples understanding of Christ and who Christ is. When we begin to rub that red white and blue varnish off of Jesus, people will not like it. People are very comfortable with that red white and blue varnish, start rubbing that off and people will accuse you of all kinds of things. Start rubbing that off, there will be star spangled trouble.
If you get accused, though, you can’t lash out. If you lash out, it just fuels the Satan, It gets worse and worse and turns into a hurricane. You forgive. You absorb the blow and forgive. Father forgive them because they don’t know what they do. If possible, you try to help them see what they are doing. But what you cannot do is let the accusation get into your head and become self doubt. Because what happens is you take the accusation up and begin to practice self accusation. You become your own Satan in your own head, and you go to hell inside your own head. Anybody else know about this? You become subject to unjust accusation, but you begin to take it up against yourself. You begin to accuse yourself. You idiot, you’re stupid. What in the world are you doing? Am I the only one?
It will begin to flood you with self doubt, you will be paralyzed, things will spiral out of control. We can’t lash out, but we also cannot afford to allow these accusations to lodge in our head and fill us with self doubt. How many if you have ever been the victim of unjust accusation? Might go all the way back to when you were five years old. Maybe your dad or your mom told you you idiot. You’re no good, you’ll never amount to anything. That was unjust. Nobody should ever say that to anybody, especially a child. Rationally you know it was unjust, not right, yet forty years later it’s still lodged in you. So now you take up against yourself. You say to yourself, you’re no good, you’ll never amount to anything. Maybe it was a parent, a brother, a friend, maybe it was an enemy. Maybe a boss, could be anybody. You’ve begun to be victimized by unjust accusation but it’s gotten into your head. And you need to pray like this – “Lord, give me the strength to be strong and true, because lord when the devil gets in my head I’m so blue…”. (From an Irish folk song…)
Never forget that the spirit of accusation is the spirit of Satan. It’s the un-holy spirit. The opposite of this is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of advocacy. God says “I love you. I’m for you. I’m on your side. You’re going to make it.” You’re ok, and when you’re not ok it’s ok not to be ok. Bring it to the Holy Spirit, to your brothers and sisters who do the will of God and lift you up.
So what did that discussion about the satan being the Accuser have to do with Jesus rebuking Peter with Get behind me, Satan!??
“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.”” Mark 8:31-33 ESV. So what is going on here?? Let’s expand the text, get the rest of the story. Peter has just made the seminal confession that Jesus is the Messiah. “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.“” Mark 8:27-29 ESV. Is Peter right?? Of course he is! You are the one who is sent by God to be the true king of Israel to restore Israel! Jesus says so immediately, as recorded by Matthew. “And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17 ESV. But there is a problem. Whereas Peter is correct in identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the true anointed king of Israel who will restore the fortunes of Israel, he has many wrong conceptions about what it means to be Messiah. He has many wrong ideas about who and what Christ is.
His controlling paradigm are the great delivering kings that have come before Jesus. Peter, along with everyone else st this time, thinks of Messiah in terms of Joshua, David, and Judah Maccabaeus. These were the three icons, the three pictures of what messiah was to be like in the Jewish mind. Joshua, who led them into the promised land and drove out the Canaanites. David, who conquered the Philistines and led Israel into its greatest glory. And 200 years earlier, Judah Maccabaeus, who is a kind of national hero, a kind of George Washington, who had led the war of independence against the Greeks. Now, they were waiting for the Messiah who would do like Joshua, who killed the Canaanites. Like David, who killed the Philistines. And like Judah Maccabaeus who killed the Greeks, now they were waiting for the Messiah who would kill the Romans and bring about the glory of Israel.
So Peter is right when he says Jesus is the messiah, the true king of Israel who will redeem the nation. But he’s controlled by a paradigm that says this means that he must mount an army, win a war, and kill the enemies. Peter is controlled by a nationalistic vision. So when Jesus in this exact same context at Caesarea Phillipi says 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, Peter and the rest couldn’t hear the part about being raised again. For about 200-300 years the idea of a general resurrection and being raised from the dead at the end of the age had come into the Jewish mind, and they might’ve heard “yeah, ok, we’re all going to be raised from the dead….someday.”
So instead, all Peter could hear was “I’m going to go to Jerusalem, and instead of sitting upon a throne, and conquering the Romans, the Herodiams, and the Hasmoneans, I’m going to be killed..,”. This is seriously messing with Peters vision of Christ. He can not accept that, he is in fact threatened by this. Peter did not leave his fishing nets to go to Jerusalem and lose. But Jesus is saying he’s going to fail, he’s going to die. He’s going to lose. He’s got to win!!!
So read what it says. He takes Jesus aside, not to be counseled by Jesus, not to ask for clarification, for a better understanding of what Jesus was saying. No, it says And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. He takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, to accuse him. He began to say “Jesus, you have misunderstood what it means to be Messiah! You are wrong about the idea of what Messiah is supposed to do. I rebuke you!” Can you picture this conversation?? And Jesus whirls around and says Get behind me, Satan! Back off Accuser!! Get back in line Accuser!!
Let’s play the scene again. Who do people say that I am??…Elijah, John the Baptist raised again, others…Who do you say that I am?…The Messiah, the christ, the one who will redeem israel…you’re blessed, Simon son of Jonah, God has shown this to you…. But know this. I’m going to go to Jerusalem, I’m going to suffer many things, I’ll be killed, but then, yes I’ll be raised….Jesus, this will never happen to you, you are wrong. I rebuke that! You have a wrong idea of what it means to be Messiah, I rebuke that Jesus!!…Get behind me Satan! Get in line Accuser! Back off Accuser. Satan, back off!!!!
Why did Jesus respond so strongly to Peters accusation?? Because he had to. Not so much for Peters sake, or for our sake, but for his own sake. When Peter accused Jesus of being wrong about the mission of Messiah (and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Peter was doing, accusing Jesus of being wrong about what messiah was to be and do), it fed right into what was always Jesus’ greatest temptation. Jesus’s greatest recurring temptation was to go about being messiah the old way. The way of Joshua, the way of David, the way of Judah Maccabaeus, the way that everybody wanted and expected him to do. They wanted the second coming of David, just like David had done it. Or Joshua, or Judah Maccabaeus.
That was a real temptation for Jesus. We see it crop up in the wilderness when he is fasting and praying before he began his ministry. He’s praying and contemplating how he’s going to begin his ministry. He says, you know, I could be like those Pharaohs, I could be like those Caesars, and I could gather all the nations under my….but that’s a Satanic idea. He has to say get behind me Satan. He recognizes it as bowing down and worshipping the Satan. “Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”” Matthew 4:10 ESV.
This temptation comes through the mouth of Peter, and Jesus has to react harshly to Peter because Jesus himself was tempted to go that way. When Peter says ….“Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Matthew 16:22 ESV, part of Jesus, part of the humanity of Jesus, says Ohhh, I want that! I don’t want this to happen to me! Jesus has to react because he too is tempted to go the old way.
Finally It shows up again in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s praying God I don’t want to go this way! Father Not this way! Take the cup from me! Not this way! ….“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”” Luke 22:42 ESV. But he wins. Not my will, but yours, be done.
Peter’s accusation – You’ve made a mistake about what Messiah is like and is supposed to do – had the possibility of getting into Jesus’s head and filling him with self doubt. (??????). How can that be? Jesus was fully human, AMEN??!! And tempted in all things as we are!! Amen again. Anybody reading this ever been tempted by self doubt?? Well so was Jesus.
And Jesus was doubted by everybody. And I do mean everybody. More on this next time.
“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.””
Mark 8:31-33 ESV
My first message in about a week and a half, went on family vacation, and I unplugged and recharged. Actually started this last Friday, I’m finally ready to share it with you…
“Woe is me because of my hurt! My wound is grievous. But I said, “Truly this is an affliction, and I must bear it.””
Jeremiah 10:19 ESV
Pain in the great equalizer in life. Pain comes to us all, unwanted and uninvited. It puts us on an even playing field. It comes to us all. It comes to the rich and the poor. Black and white. Educated and uneducated. Powerful and weak. Religious and irreligious. In a broken world, pain is inevitable.
Jeremiah’s pain, Woe is me because of my hurt!, was the pain of watching his country be invaded and fall to the Babylonians. Jeremiah was a prophet in the southern kingdom called Judah. At the time they were being ransacked by the Babylonians. His pain was the pain of watching his countrymen captured and carried off to Babylon. The pain of watching his city, the holy city of Jerusalem, being burned and ransacked, with the holy temple of Jewish worship being destroyed by a pagan army.
Jeremiah was able to put to words the pain we have all felt. We’ve all felt pain, but sometimes in those painful moments we just can’t find the words to express the hurt you feel. Maybe the wound is more than you can bear.
Jeremiah’s pain was the pain of a nation falling. Maybe your pain is the physical pain from some disease or malady. Maybe you feel the emotional pain of someone you have loved who has hurt you. Maybe it’s the hidden pain of abuse. Maybe it’s the stinging pain of loss through death. Maybe you know the shameful pain of personal failure.
For many of us, it’s the pain and regret and sorrow of lifelong struggles with with addictions that cause us to hurt other people. How many examples have we seen of the saying hurt people hurt people. We who have been wounded and have been hurt, end up hurting others. How many deep wounds have we seen and felt that we have tried to self medicate with sex, alcohol, gambling, drugs, but we just can’t. We end up, out of our hurt and wounded-ness, hurting the people we love. We tell our stories, we tell of our lies, we tell of stealing from those we love, we abandon them, we break our relationships apart. Truly this is an affliction, and I must bear it.
Jeremiah, living in a time when the southern kingdom and Jerusalem itself were being laid bare, had in mind the words of Isaiah. Jeremiah became the weeping prophet, carrying the wound of the fallen Jerusalem. But one hundred years before Jeremiah, God had sent to Israel the prophet Isaiah both with a warning and a message of hope. Isaiah opens the second half his book of prophecy with these words – “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord ‘s hand double for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:1-2 ESV. One hundred years before Jeremiah and his wounds and his hurt, Isaiah prophesied that a day of new creation was coming to Israel. There would come a day when Israel would flourish, where they would build houses and plant vineyards, and have babies and lots of babies and grand-babies and have big kosher BBQs and the family would all be together. One hundred years before Jeremiah’s pain there was this great prophecy that there would be a time of flourishing and this time of new creation when God would come and dwell with his people again.
Then there was this promise that Isaiah gave – “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.” Isaiah 65:25 ESV. The hurt Jeremiah felt compelled to hold onto (ever been there?), he would not have to hold onto any longer. There was coming a time of new creation where in God’s rule and reign they would not hurt or destroy anymore. Isaiah prophecies this yet one hundred years later there was the fall of Jerusalem and the people watched as the wolves and lions from Babylon came devouring…
Yet a promise remained from Isaiah. Even at this point in Israel’s history, God had not forsaken them, he had not given up. There was coming one called the anointed one, the Christ, the Messiah. There was one coming who would come to bring God’s kingdom, God’s rule and reign, to the earth. Remember, when we speak of the kingdom of God, we are not talking about a place but a power. The church is not the kingdom of God, but rather the witness to the kingdom of God. We are the servants of the kingdom of God. But the Kingdom of God is God’s rule and reign on the earth. So there was this prophecy that even through the destruction of the temple there would be a day of new creation and that Messiah would come.
Isaiah tells us that when Messiah would come he would be a suffering King, that he would take all the hurt, pain and sorrow of Israel away. In Isaiah 53 it tells us “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4 ESV. Jeremiah is carrying this wound, this hurt, this pain, yet he has the promise that Messiah would come and be a suffering king.
Five hundred years (God does move slowly, doesn’t he?) after Isaiah’s prophecy a virgin girl gives birth to her first born son, and they would call his name Jesus, for he would save God’s people from their sins. Jesus came to bring God’s kingdom, his rule and reign, to bring God’s holy mountain to the earth. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God and show us what God is like.
So what do we see in the gospels that Jesus was doing? He was proclaiming and preaching that God’s kingdom is a peaceable kingdom. There’s not going to be eye for an eye, tooth for tooth anymore (even though sometimes we argue with him over this!). No more hating, destroying and killing of your enemies, that’s done away with. We see Jesus proclaiming a kingdom of peace and we see Jesus healing the sick. And as he was healing the sick, he was demonstrating what God is like, what life lived in the kingdom of God is like.
What do we see about God through the preaching and ministry of Jesus? We see that God is good, full of compassion and mercy, that he’s a God who wants to mend what is broken and heal what is diseased. We see in the ministry of Jesus the promise of Isaiah coming to pass, that there will be a time when people will come under the rule and reign of God. In that place, They shall not hurt or destroy.
So Jesus has come. He has proclaimed the kingdom. And you know how the story ends. At the end of his life, Jesus dies. He goes to the cross, gets executed, and dies. One of his closest followers, Peter, says this about Jesus in his death. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 ESV. Amen.
Jesus came not just to demonstrate what life looks like in the kingdom of God, but Jesus came and he collected, he carried our griefs and sorrows, he carried all sorts of human pain into himself, took it into death, and overcame it in his resurrection that he might offer healing to all. (Amen!) So in his suffering, Jesus was suffering for us, but also with us. Jesus experienced all sorts of human pain. He experienced your pain. He experienced it for you so that he can take it in himself, overcome it, then rise again to offer healing for your wounds. He took your pain and your brokenness so that you don’t have to carry it anymore. So that if you choose to live under the rule and reign of god, then you shall not hurt or destroy anymore.
Have you experienced the pain of rejection? Jesus was abandoned and rejected by all of his disciples at his arrest and execution. Experienced the pain of injustice? Jesus was unjustly tried and sentenced to death. Experienced the pain of bondage and addiction? Jesus was bound and held against his will at his arrest. Experienced the pain of physical abuse? Jesus was slapped, spat upon and beaten before his death. Experienced the emotional pain of harsh words spoken to you in anger? Jesus was mocked, ridiculed, laughed at and scolded as he died. Experienced the shame of sexual abuse? Jesus at the cross was stripped naked, exposed for all to see. Experienced physical pain from disease or malady or sickness? Jesus experienced real human physical pain at his crucifixion. Experienced profound disappointment with God? Jesus at the cross cried out…“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” Mark 15:34 ESV. Experienced the stinging pain of the death of a loved one? Jesus experienced real human death. Jesus cried out at the end from the cross “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46 ESV. He breathed his last and went into death.
Jesus took into death with him all amounts human suffering and pain, and he overcame it in his resurrection to offer healing and solace. So when people ask, and they will, why suffering?? Or for those who make it really personal, and when they are hurting or in that moment of pain, ask where is God, why am I hurting?? God thunders back from heaven, saying I entered into that kind of pain, I took it for you, I overcame, so that you may be healed. Jesus Christ became a co-sufferer with humanity.
Where does all this come from? God does not give us the answer, scripture does not give us the answer of why suffering? But God does give us the remedy. He becomes human, suffers with us, and takes all of our suffering within himself so that our wounds may be healed.
Healing for you can begin today. Offer your brokenness to the one who was broken for you. Exchange your empire of dirt for life in the kingdom of God. Enter into the kingdom of God, that place where Isaiah promises that we will not hurt or destroy anymore. Let healing begin…