Summary: Jesus turns from silence about His achievements to open speaking about His death. He will not follow the ambition path, the pleasure path, or the easy spirituality path.
You can admire Jesus, you can think well of Jesus, you can even love Jesus. But you cannot domesticate Him, you cannot tame Him, you cannot make Him sweet and nice and pretty. He is who He is and He says what He says, and sometimes it’s hard to take.
In my experience, just about everybody out there thinks well of Jesus. They admire His character. They listen to His moral teachings – they listen, but do not necessarily obey. They glory in His healings, they are astonished by His miracles. But you can admire Jesus, you can think well of Jesus, you can even love Jesus. The one thing, however, you cannot do is domesticate Jesus. You cannot tame His fierce determination to be who He is and to do what He intends to do.
Once you take Jesus out of the safe confines of your private being and put Him out there in public, you find that He cannot be tamed. He will push back at you. Once you remove Jesus from the sanctuary of the church, the stained-glass windows and the pews, He becomes impossible to hold back. He will be who He will be, He will do what He intends to do, and He will go where He is called to go.
That gives fits to those of us who are tame and cautious. That gives the heebie-jeebies to those of us who want to live the world’s way and still think of ourselves as sort-of spiritual. For Jesus will push back at us and will challenge us from the tip of our scalps to the soles of our feet. You can admire Jesus, you can think well of Jesus, you can even love Jesus. But you cannot domesticate Him, you cannot tame Him, you cannot keep Him under wraps. He will push us.
Mark says that Jesus went about doing good: healing, teaching, and preaching, but always insisting that little or nothing be said. He would heal someone and then say, “Tell no one who did this for you.” He released a man from demons but asked him to go home and tell his friends what God, not Jesus, had done. He raised a young girl from death, and told her grateful family to say nothing to anyone, just give her something to eat. He unstopped a deaf man’s ears, and insisted on secrecy. He cured a blind man and then sent him away, telling him not even to go back to the village from which he had come. Healings, miracles, all done in secret. Private business.
But then the picture changes. The scene now is Caesarea Philippi. Jesus and His disciples are trudging along the road. Jesus is silent, in deep thought, as if He is making some sort of decision. Suddenly He stops. He has them all sit for a moment; then He raises a question. It’s one of those leading questions that you know has a Part Two, but you have to get through Part One first: “Who do people say that I am?” They spilled out the little tidbits they’d heard along the way. “Some say you are John the Baptist, come back after that business with Herod and Salome. Some say that you are Elijah, the forerunner of the Kingdom. And some say you are one of the ancient prophets, come back to teach us again. Lots of possibilities, Jesus. They like you out there. You are popular. They think well of you.”
Jesus, raising His eyes, sweeping His gaze across the whole group, pushed out the words, “But who do you say that I am?” Here comes Part Two of the final exam! “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter’s words sound like what Jesus wanted to hear. Peter’s reply seems to hit the mark, “You are the Messiah.” You are the chosen one of God, you are what Israel has been looking for, you are IT, Jesus. But that too is met with a stern order not to tell anyone.
What is wrong with this Jesus, that He does not want to spread His name or puff His fame? What is wrong with this Jesus, that He does not conform to our expectations? It all adds up to this one truth: you can admire Jesus, you can think well of Jesus, you can even love Jesus. But you cannot domesticate Him, you cannot tame Him, you cannot confine Him. He will be who He is.
And who is He? What does He do? At what you might think would be the pinnacle of success, with healings under His belt and the acclaim of the crowd ringing in His ears, with Peter and the others having arrived at the right conclusion – at such a time Jesus begins to speak of suffering, rejection, death. At the point when His team seems ready to go, Jesus tells them He must suffer, He must be rejected, and He must die.