On the Third Day

Starting to look at “signs” in the Gospel of John, seven signs that John has chosen and arranged in such a way to point us to Jesus as Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, that we might believe on him in a right way and have the life to the fullest which He promises.   And, so we will start with the first sign along the way, which appears at a wedding in Cana.

This is the first sign in John, but it’s even the first miracle.  Of all of Jesus’s miracles, the first one is turning water into wine.   It’s not raising the dead, not healing the blind, walking on water, or casting out a demon.   The first miracle Jesus does is turning the water to wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.   So yes, it’s a wedding party, but we can also say it’s Jesus’s coming out party.   Jesus is going public now.  He’s going to start doing the stuff here in Cana of Galilee, and the way he starts is very intriguing.   I hope you like this story as much as I do, because I might be here for a while…

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with 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.” 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.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”  John 2:1-11 ESV

What a great story!!   It begins like this – On the third dayit’s the third day. What does it mean that it’s the third day?   It means it’s Tuesday.  Sunday’s the first day, Monday’s the second day, Tuesday is the third day.   In ancient Israel, Tuesday was the day to get married.  It’s wedding day.  In modern America, Saturday is the day to get married.   But in ancient Israel, as well as Israel to this day, Tuesday is the day to get married.

Why do they get married on Tuesday?  This is scriptural.  In the ancient creation account in Genesis 1, we go through the six days of creation, God goes through each day and declares it good.   We see the phrase and God saw that it was good repeated over and over again.  He blesses every day and calls it good.   But on the third day, God calls it good twice.  Twice during the creation episode of the third day, God pronounces it good.  He says good twice about the third day, “Aah, that’s an auspicious day, it’s doubly blessed from God, we might as well get married on a Tuesday.”   That’s how that got started.

So on the third day, there was a wedding.   Because of course that’s when you do the weddings, on the third day.   On the other hand, John knows very well that his readers, reading a gospel of Jesus Christ, won’t associate the phrase on the third day with the Jewish wedding day.   No, John knows his readers, and he knows that his readers will associate the phrase on the third day with something else altogether.    When you read a gospel of Jesus Christ and see the phrase on the third day, you’re not thinking “Hey, that’s the day the Jews get married.”   That’s not what you’re thinking.  When you (we) read that phrase, on the third day, we are thinking that’s the day Jesus rose from the dead!!   And that’s exactly what John wants you to think.  He is an artist.  He’s not just a theologian, but he’s an artist.  He’s an artistic theologian, and he wants you to get that.  He wants you to connect what’s about to happen at this wedding in Cana with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Five paragraphs in, I’m not out of the first phrase yet.  Told you I would be here for a while…

John Lewis

Advertisements

Signs

I’m starting to get into the Gospel of John.   Not that I’ve never looked at it before, but now I’m really beginning to get into it more deeply.  John’s gospel is different than Matthew, Luke and Mark, the synoptic gospels, in that they were written more as histories of the life of Jesus, with an assumption being made that the readers would be those who already had come to believe in Christ as Messiah.   But John’s gospel is something very different altogether.  It’s not that there is no history in John, there is plenty of the history of the life of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  But John is writing not to those who already believe, but to those who do not believe, both then and now.   John’s is very much an evangelistic gospel.  John is writing with a purpose, and he’s as much an artist as he is an evangelist.

I’m going to begin to journey through the Gospel of John, guided by the signs he places in within his gospel account.    John’s gospel originally ended in chapter 20.  He added chapter 21 as an epilogue later on because of some things that had come up.  But originally, John ended his gospel like this.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”   John 20:30-31 ESV.

So John tells us at the end of his gospel what he’s been doing throughout.  John places seven signs, seven miracles of Jesus within his gospel, which is in fact very few.   Matthew, especially Mark, and Luke all have far more accounts of Jesus’ miracles than John.   John restricts the number of miracles to seven, which is in itself significant and not accidental, because John knows what he is doing.  He restricts his gospel to seven miracles, but he never uses that word.  He calls them “signs”.  But each of these miracles, which John calls signs, is significant.   Even that word, significant, starts off with the root ‘sign’.   It’s sign-ificant.  John uses seven miracles as signs.  They are important, but not in their own self.   It’s not just telling us Jesus can do stuff.  It’s not just that Jesus can walk in water, Jesus can multiply loaves, Jesus can raise the dead.  John very carefully and artistically selects seven miracles that he calls signs to point us to something.   John uses the seven miracles as signs to guide our faith toward Jesus.   A sign is not significant in itself, but it’s significant because of what it points to.  The sign is not the thing, but it’s what the sign is pointing to or locating or identifying.   For instance, if you see a sign for Yellowstone National Park, or the Grand Canyon, you did not come to see that sign, but you came to find what that sign is directing you to.   The sign itself is not important, but instead the breathtaking beauty you came to see.  But the sign let’s you know you are on the right track, in the right place, and where you need to be.  That’s the value of a sign.

So the important thing, for John, isn’t that Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water, or multiplied the loaves and fishes.  The important thing is, what do the signs tell us about Jesus???   How do they form and inform our faith?   John gave us seven signs not just to wow us and show off all these things Jesus could do.   John gave us these signs to point us to Jesus in a right way, so that you will look at Jesus right, so that you will perceive Jesus right.  So that you will believe Jesus in a right way and have life in his name.   Want to have more of the life of Jesus in your life??  Then we need to believe on him in a certain way, and John gives us seven signs to direct our faith to believe right so we can have life in Jesus’ name.

So that’s the plan for the next few weeks.  To let John show us signs that lead us to Jesus so that we can believe and have life in his name.   And so we will start with a wedding in Cana of Galilee…

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”   John 20:30-31 ESV

John Lewis

He Left a Trail

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

John Lewis

Darkened Lamps

light_in_dark

“They tell me to be discreet, for all intended purposes,  they tell me revenge is sweet, and from where they stand I’m sure it is.  But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized.   All I feel are heat and flame, and all I see are dark eyes.”   Bob Dylan.

Jesus wants to teach us a brand new way of looking at life with eyes of wonder, love and acceptance so that you can have bright eyes and a bright soul.   I’ve used this quote before, but here it is again – “Christianity is about forgiveness or it’s about nothing at all” – Pastor and author Brian Zahnd.  The problem is that the people who are most explicit in our culture in identifying themselves as Christian are not famous for forgiveness.  If we are identifying ourselves with Christianity, which is about forgiveness or it’s about nothing at all, but we are not famous for our forgiveness, something has gone very wrong.  We say we care about Christianity in America.  We say we want our children and grandchildren to be able to live as Christians.   But we have a problem.

The dominant, most visible public expression of public Christianity in America, evangelicalism, is in deep trouble.   The us vs. them thing is killing us.  We have adopted a paradigm of self-identifying ourselves as we are the righteous and they (pick your group) are the unrighteous, and we are going to react toward them by protest, by clenched fist, by furrowed brow, and this attitude and paradigm is killing authentic Christianity in America.

I can’t paraphrase or otherwise say this any better, so this is directly from Pastor Zahnd’s 2010 book Unconditional?  The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness.  So I’ll just quote from it.

“When we choose to forgive those who intentionally and maliciously harm us instead of perpetuating the cycle of revenge, we become a living imitation of Jesus Christ.  And as we do this, we flood a world hell-bent on paybacks with a forgiveness that washes away sin.  The world is all too full of the lust for vengeance.  This lust is ultimately demonic in nature and is what fuels all our wars – from petty personal conflicts to deadly world wars.  Christians are called to opt out of the game of getting even.  The saying is that “vengeance is sweet,” but vengeance is sweet only to the sick soul.  To those who have tasted the grace of God in Christ, vengeance is bitter as gall.  Bob Dylan talks about the perversity of calling revenge ‘sweet’ in his under-appreciated song ‘Dark Eyes.’

‘They tell me to be discreet for all intended purposes,

They tell me revenge is sweet, and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.

But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized,

All I feel are heat and flame and all I feel are dark eyes.’

Revenge is not sweet.  It’s the heat and flame of hell and leads to the dark eyes of a lost soul.  Those who would aspire to imitate Christ must feel nothing for the game of paybacks.  The saying ‘paybacks are hell’ is true in more than one sense.  Paybacks are not only hell for the recipient of revenge; paybacks are also hell for the executioner of revenge.  It’s the lust for revenge that destroys our souls and keeps us chained in a devil’s  hell of exponential hatred and endless retribution.  The only way out is the imitation of Christ.”

Who are we imitating?   Are we imitating Christ?   Or are we dancing with the devil?   Just what kind of light is the lamp of your soul beaming?

 “”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.

John Lewis

You Will Even Accuse Yourself

You Will Even Accuse Yourself

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.

John Lewis

Peter’s Accusation

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 againPeter 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

http://bible.com/59/mrk.8.31-33.esv

John Lewis

The Accuser

“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

If we are to understand what Jesus means by Get behind me, Satan!addressed to his disciple Peter, we need to revisit a little bit of the origin of what the Bible calls “the Satan”, Ha-Satan. We’ve grown accustomed to thinking of Satan as a proper noun or name.  Look, there’s Mark, there’s Jon, there’s Satan!    But it’s not that way.  It’s simply a noun which is always used with the definitive article, the Ha-Satan, the satan, which simply means the accuser.

The satan is referred to three times in the Old Testament.  Once in passing in an episode with David, once in Zechariah where it says “Then the angel showed me Jeshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord. The Accuser, Satan, was there at the angel’s right hand, making accusations against Jeshua.”  Zechariah 3:1 NLT

But the only episode that has a lot of detail about HaSatan comes from the book of Job.  In the book of Job we find the HaSatan, the satan, accusing Job before God, and then orchestrating three successive catastrophes that befall righteous Job.  First, he loses his livelihood and he’s bankrupt.  On the heels of that, he loses his children.  He’s bereaved.   As if these two were not enough, Job loses his health and is struck down with terrible afflicting boils.   The satan is behind it all…

Yet after chapter 2, and Job is a very lengthy book, satan is never again mentioned.  He disappears from the text but does not disappear from the story.  Beginning in chapter 3, satan, the accuser, morphs into or posseses Jobs three friends, Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar.   These are three friends of Job who come to commiserate with him in his sorrow and suffering.   He’s lost his livelihood, his children and his health and they come as friends to share his sorrow.

But very quickly, they morph into or become possessed by HaSatan and they begin to accuse Job.  They begin to attempt to explain to Job why these three catastrophes have come upon him and they insist it must be because Job has sinned.  Somehow Job has done something to cause him to deserve this horrible fate.  And Job protests his innocence.  As these successive debates continue to rage through the book, they become increasingly vicious as they become more and more HaSatan-esque, or satanic, and more viciously accuse their friend Job.

Now when God does arrive on the scene in the book of Job, he announces clearly that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar have NOT spoken accurately concerning Job.  They have falsely accused him.  But let’s take a moment and ask why?  Why did Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar pile on and accuse their suffering friend.  Why would anyone do that to their friend??

The reason they were accusing Job was out of a motivation to preserve their world view.  Their world view was this – “Good things happen to good people.  Bad things happen to bad people (does this sound familiar?).   We are good people, so nothing bad will ever happen to us.”   That was the false foundation to their false security.   It’s how they maintained their peace of mind.  It’s how they slept at night.  That was their paradigm.

So when Job says “No, that’s not true.  Because I’m a good man to whom horrible things have happened…”, it threatens the very foundation of their security.  So they have to attack Job in order to preserve the false foundation of their false security, and they manifest the satan.   See how that works?  It’s very interesting, very diabolical.   But we need to recognize it.  You could say it this way – satan is the spirit of accusation.

Learn this – the satan is the spirit of accusation, especially of fear based accusation, which is what was motivating the miserable comforters of Job.   It wasn’t that they hated Job, they didn’t.   But it was that they needed to preserve their own sense of well being and future security by assuring themselves that this is true – that good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people.   And we’re good people, nothing bad will ever happen to us.  And Job was threatening to undo that, to expose that as a lie, because he was saying, “No, I’m a good man to whom bad things have happened.”   And so to preserve the false foundation of their false security, they manifested the satan and began to accuse him.

The spirit of accusation is the spirit of satan, especially fear based accusation.  Because when people feel threatened in some way, their security, their position, their politics, their ideology, their worldview, when they feel that threatened, they tend to  channel that anxiety into accusation.   And here’s the kicker – it works.  If you are feeling threatened in some way, something is happening in your world, in your worldview, you ideology, in your situation, your circumstances that is causing you anxiety, if you will channel that anxiety into an accusation against someone else, it will make you feel better.  Just like meth, or heroin, or alcohol, or whatever your drug of choice, will make you feel better.   But it’s also satanic.

It will make you feel better.  If you are anxious and tense because something is challenging your worldview or circumstances or assumptions and you’re being forced to look at things differently and it is causing you anxiety and you channel that anxiety into an accusation against someone else, you will feel better.  And because you feel better, you might think “this must be God…”.  You’re only off a little bit…it’s actually the devil.

This is the primary work of satan, and it’s the opposite of the Holy Spirit.   The spirit of satan is the spirit of accusation, the Holy Spirit is the spirit of advocacy.  He is the advocate.  He is the one who comes and takes our side and stands with us and comforts us.  He stands with us against the accusation.

Whats this got to do with Jesus rebuking Peter with Get behind me, Satan!??   Guess that’s for 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

http://bible.com/59/mrk.8.31-33.esv

John Lewis