Today I would like to talk to you all briefly about three things,
… thought at the end of the day, I really only want to talk to you about one thing—the Cross of Christ.
Today we read that Jesus and his disciples find themselves in Caesarea Philippi.
This is no small thing, that Peter confesses that Jesus is Messiah there—the first use of that title in Mark’s Gospel since it’s opening lines.
That he makes this confession in Caesarea Philippi is important.
Caesarea Philippi, named after Caesar—ruler of the Roman Empire, and Philip, one of Herod’s sons, is such a strange hybrid of power and culture.
On one end there is Rome, with all its power and pretention, holding everything together with brute force
—peace by superior fire power
—Emperors deified by threat of death.
On the other end is Jerusalem, the world Peter and the disciples identify with.
Jerusalem, filled with Elders, Priest, and scribes—a seeming faithful counter-balance to Rome.
And like some strange Venn Diagram, Caesarea Philippi is where those two worlds intersect—the farthest edge of Israel and a city claimed for Caesar.
And yet, none of these identifications
—Roman or Jew
—speak to Jesus’ identity, or the identity of those who follow him. Jesus is not a Messiah of Imperial Power, or one of Religious piety or one that mixes the two up
—he is one that point to a fourth option
—to crucified messiah-ship
—to a life shaped by the humble, humiliating, cross.
An identification with the one so humble he died a shameful death, the king crowned by thorn and enthroned on a cross.
Yes, our identity is in the cross instead of nation or religion or some mix of the two.
Yes, when the world offers us the choice between citizenship or membership as our center of self, we say no and cling to the Cross of Christ.
Today we read as well of Jesus and the disciples being “on the way.”
This phrase is of course packed tight with meaning—it is the name Christians were called in the earliest years of our movement—people of the way.
And one of the problems Christians have, and have had from the beginning
—is a place problem
—a direction problem,
a where are we on the way problem.
Today, Peter gets ahead of Jesus on the way, claiming the way does not involve rejection and suffering and all of that
—he refuses to believe the direction they are headed is conflict and cross.
Soon enough he’ll be calling on Jesus to stay in one place, to not go any farther down that road.
Later the disciples will argues the road should really go toward greatness,
And later still they’ll argue about place—where they get to be—ask to be on his right and on his left.
And in response to each of these place questions
—these where on the way ought we to be questions,
Jesus responds “Cross, Cross, Cross.”
He points to the way that is The Way.
He warns about:
going too fast,
staying in one place,
seeking greatness instead of God,
and going on the sideline when we’re called to follow him, wherever he may go.
His rebuke of Peter, is this “get behind me.”
Follow after me.
Be my disciple.
Follow after him, even when it means cross—and please don’t misunderstand, there is no need to make our own crosses, when we follow him they will come. There is enough suffering to go around, enough suffering to bear well, without adding to our labor.
Today we read about Peter seeing, but not seeing
—knowing who Jesus is, but not knowing.
Confessing, but still getting it a little off.
This from the same gospel that makes a big deal out of a blind man healed by Jesus, but still not completely seeing, needing a second go of it.
This from the same gospel that contains a father who cries so eloquently “I believe, help my unbelief.
It’s I see, sort of.
I believe, sort of.
And now today “I confess, sort of.”
Peter confesses that Jesus is Messiah
—wow, he get’s it…
but then loses it,
he rebukes the Messiah for defining himself, defining Messiah-ship as suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection.
Peter thinks he has it, but doesn’t.
It’s like the famous Buddhist saying, “If you meet the Buddha, kill him.”
In other words, if you finally believe you’ve reached enlightenment, that only means you have no idea what enlightenment is all about.
Likewise, Peter, if you think you’ve boxed in what Messiah is, you’ve only boxed yourself in.
You’ve seen Messiah only partially,
you’ve believed in Messiah, but only partially.
You’ve confessed Messiah, only partially.
In fact, the only person who fully grasps who Jesus is in Mark’s Gospel
—the only one who fully sees,
—is the Centurion—the Centurion at the end of the Gospel there to see Jesus breathe his last, his life end, end on the cross.
Yes, we see Jesus fully on the cross.
We head in the right direction when we follow after him, onward to the cross.
We know who we are, when we find our identity in Our Lord on the cross.