The location of today’s gospel selection within the whole of Mark’s Gospel makes it a hinge in this portrait of Jesus. The setting of the passage, along the way, is the first of many times that Jesus will speak to others on his way to suffer, die and rise in Jerusalem.
Earlier in Mark’s Gospel the disciples had wondered who Jesus was. When Jesus stilled the wind and waves and saved their lives, the disciples, filled with great awe [wondered] to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”/1/ Their ability to identify Jesus as God’s messiah was gradual. Their knowledge of his identity, however, did not allow them to follow in his way immediately.
The disciples portrayed by Mark learned Jesus slowly, often taking two steps back for their steps forward in learning him. Unlike us the disciples did not know the end of the story of Jesus. Yet their two steps back for each one forward is not different from us when it comes to learning Jesus.
The word rebuke, in Peter...began to rebuke Jesus, is the same word that described Jesus confronting the wind and sea, and moreover, the unclean spirits. After calling his first disciples to follow him, Jesus taught in a synagogue, where he healed a man with an unclean spirit: Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Quiet! Come out of him!” What followed next is even more vivid: when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of the man./2/
How often we function the same way! We rebuke God and don’t allow God to grace our limited humanity. We continue to live the struggle between God’s desire and plan for our salvation and our limited logic and urge to be in control at all costs. We echo Peter, who “expressed human wisdom at it’s most convincing.”/3/
This hinge in Mark’s gospel is also a hinge in Christian living: our struggle to trust in Jesus, not just the miracle worker but the crucified Messiah, is demanding. Perhaps its sharpest demand is coming to admit that not thinking in the ways of Jesus is folly and that thinking in the ways of Jesus and his Father is true wisdom.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus, become aware that the Trinity is confident in you. Ask Peter to present you to Jesus because Peter knows how you are attracted to Jesus and ready to rebuke Jesus. Tell Jesus how you are attracted to him and tell Jesus what moves you to rebuke him, to think your ways are better than his ways. Ask Jesus to help you accept Jesus as our crucified Messiah, who turns much of our human wisdom on its head. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus gave us to grace our human knowing and learn Jesus better and to allow his story to become our story.
1. Mark 4.41.
2. Mark 1.25.
3. Paul S. Minear, The God of the Gospels: A Theological Workbook, Atlanta, John Knox Press, 1988, p. 40.
Wiki-image of a gospel page depicting Jesus saving Peter before Jesus rebuked wind and sea is in the public domain.