Summary: Jesus predicts His death and Peter doesn't want this to happen, but Jesus' reaction is quite nasty: 'Get behind me Satan'. This seems so out of character for Jesus - so what is going on here?


MT. 16: 21-27; Mark 8: 31-38

Today’s gospel reading is quite a strange story in the life of Jesus – He is quite nasty, definitely out of character.

But the important thing here is to read or hear this story in the context of Peter’s human nature.

This is the wonderful thing about the disciples of Jesus they were just like us with all their faults and dislikes, and here we see Peter’s spontaneous reaction and eagerness.

I find this very reassuring.

Jesus is telling His disciples that He is going to die – just as it was then as it is today we just do NOT talk about such things; death – is a subject we all avoid – its taboo

We know that there are only 2 certainties in life – taxation and death but they are hardly topics of conversation.

Is Jesus being morbid? Surely not, He is at the height of His ministry – the crowds flock to hear His message and yet He is talking about His death.

No wonder Peter tries to reassure Jesus that this will not happen, after all Jesus is only in His early 30s.

But what must come, will come.

In 1000 AD, 186 years after the death of Emperor Charlemagne, officials of the Emperor Otto re-opened Charlemagne’s tomb.

Before them was an extraordinary sight. In the midst of all the finery buried with him—the gold, the jewels, the priceless treasure—there was the skeleton of Charlemagne himself, still seated on his throne, still wearing his crown.

In his lap, there lay a Bible, and a bony finger rested on Mark 8:36: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

I wonder what answer Charlemagne gave.

What answer will you give?

The previous gospel reading was all about the Transfiguration.

On that mount we see Jesus asking His disciples the question, "Whom do men say that I am?"

It was a response to gossip where people were trying to understand who Jesus actually was, Elijah or one of the prophets.

Then Jesus asked them, "Whom do you say that I am?"

And Peter makes his great confession of faith.

Peter spontaneously declares that Jesus is the "Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Jesus told Peter that he had received a revelation from God and proclaimed him a spiritual rock on which His Church would be built and promised him the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

It would be difficult to find anywhere in the New Testament a happier and more harmonious scene.

But this harmony was to be short-lived as we see in this morning’s gospel… today the scene has completely changed!

• One moment Peter confesses his faith in Jesus as Messiah and the next moment he takes Jesus aside, argues with Him, and tries to tell Him what to do.

• One moment Jesus speaks to Peter as a spiritual rock, the next moment He calls him Satan and orders him to get out of His sight.

What happened to make this change and bring about such a dramatic difference?

Peter was just like that tempter in the wilderness, Jesus didn’t want to die but He knew He had to go on, hence His response ‘get behind me Satan’.

So the change in mood is not hard to find… It was the cross.

Jesus confronted His disciples with the cross and they didn’t want to know. They wanted everything to be rosy, to stay as it is.

In fact they loved Jesus so much that they did not want to hear Him talk like this – to talk of His death.

Many times Jesus had told them that He would be captured, scourged, crucified, and in the same breath, He had always added and on the third day I will rise again.

Why were they so deaf to that last part that when they saw Him die and being buried they didn't say, "It’s all happening as He said it would.

Let us wait near the tomb and witness the resurrection for ourselves."

It was because once He told them that He was to die on a cross, they closed their minds and their ears.

They didn’t want to hear anything more and so they failed to hear Him say that He was to rise on the third day.

They didn't want to hear such talk – quite naturally.

Now we can understand the shift of mood. The cross is easily the most disturbing factor in the Christian faith.

The first disciples did not want to be confronted by His death, and neither do we – why?.. because it reminds us of the seriousness of our sins.

The worst thing that can be said of this world, is that there are people like you and me, who took the Son of God and nailed Him to a tree.

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