Summary: Then Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he was asking his disciples, "Who do people say I am?" They answered him, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others one of the prophets." Then he
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man would have to suffer a great deal and be rejected by the elders, the high priests, and the scribes. Then he would be killed, but after three days he would rise again. He was speaking about this matter quite openly. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts!"
Then Jesus called the crowd to himself along with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me continually. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. For what profit will a person have if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Indeed, what can a person give in exchange for his life? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes with the holy angels in his Father’s glory."
We’ve had a baptism this morning, and it’s one that most of us here probably didn’t see coming!
I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing - far from it - but I’m conscious of the fact that whereas, for the most part, we announce these things a little ahead of time, so that we can get the catering right and structure the service properly, we just sorta dived into this baptism (pun intended) without spending too much time testing the water (so to speak)..
Now, as I say, I’m not suggesting that this is a bad thing, as the tradition of fast-tracked baptisms goes right back to Biblical times. For those who remember the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch In Acts 8, there was a guy who had never heard of Jesus, but after chatting to the Apostle Philip for 10 minutes, asked, "what’s to stop me from getting baptised?", and Philip said, "Nothing! Let’s find some water", and so it happened!
And so it happened this morning too, though I am left with the niggling feeling that the baptismal family might feel somewhat short-changed, because they didn’t get to experience Father Dave’s 15-week baptismal preparation course - a course that doesn’t exist, of course, but which might if I gave more time to these sorts of things.
And perhaps indeed I should give more time to these things, for I am very conscious of the fact that Jesus Himself went to great lengths to warn people about exactly what they were getting themselves into when they followed Him. And indeed, that very issue was at the heart of our Gospel reading this morning!
The passage I’m referring to is from the Gospel of Mark, chapter eight, depicting an exchange that took place between Jesus and His disciples as they wandered through the villages outside Caesarea Philippi .
And it’s an odd exchange, that starts out as a very genteel discussion about the opinion polls regarding Jesus. ("Who do people say that I am?") but then degenerates very quickly into a heated discussion, with Peter telling Jesus off and Jesus all but swearing at Peter and calling him ’Satan’, and then the story ends in an aphorism!
I think ’aphorism’ is the right word, isn’t It - ie. A wise saying that encapsulates some insight into life? The aphorism here comes from Jesus: "what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his life"?
And I’m not sure exactly how the aphorism fits in, but what the aphorism certainly does make clear is that following Jesus is to be seen as a matter of life and death, and Peter just doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that. And I think the reason Peter can’t grasp that is because he is a teenager!
Now I know he wasn’t literally a teenager when this took place. He probably would have been around 30, but as I see Peter he was, like so many of us, something of a teenage boy in a man’s body.
For the characteristics of the teenage psyche are all there. He’s passionate, impulsive, short-tempered, and (most pointedly of all) he’s not at all good at thinking through the consequences of his decisions. That’s the teenage mind in a nutshell, isn’t it?
Now don’t think I’m not trying put down teenagers. I love teenagers. Not only do I have one of my own but I spend most of my week working with teenagers But Ange tells me that from her studies in cognitive development, theorists are apparently now saying that thet teenage brain just isn’t fully developed in those areas that deal with thinking things through properly, and that would explain a lot, wouldn’t it.