Summary: Suffering for the gospel is an indispensable part of the gospel. Faith that perseveres through suffering is rewarded with the victory of Christ’s resurrection.
There is a body of legislation on the books in most states today that we might call “truth in advertising laws.” They were enacted by state legislatures over the past several decades in order to protect consumers from false advertising claims about a product or service that a business offers the public.
I suspect that if these laws were ever applied to the churches of America, most of them would be closed down for gross violations of these statutes. It’s not rocket science to know that WHAT the consuming public values TODAY are things like convenience, ease of use, and anything that brings enjoyment, contentment, peace, and health. “It’ll make you happy!” and “You’ll really enjoy this” are the fundamental messages in advertising for everything from automobiles, to cosmetics, to foods of all kinds, as well as for services such as tanning salons, finance companies that will erase your credit card debt, barbers, banks, and bakeries. You any product or service, and I’ll bet their advertising is some version of “It’ll make you happy!” or “You’ll really like this!”
And, I’ve seen ads for churches which say the same things. And, even for churches that don’t say such things in the advertising pages of newspapers or on the commercials between TV programs, it’s pretty much the message you’ll hear from a vast majority of pulpits across America today, in every denomination you wish to name.
If I were a betting man, I’d bet a bundle that you will never hear or see advertising for the Christian faith that contains what Jesus taught his disciples in today’s gospel lesson. And, in that lesson, Jesus introduces an idea into his teaching of the Apostles that is jarring as far as it’s “niceness” is concerned. It comes in his ministry after a climactic confession that the Apostle Peter makes that is recorded in the verses that immediately precede the gospel lesson for today – when Jesus presses his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” Peter says “You are the Messiah.”
And, at that point, Mark says that “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” And, Mark says further that Jesus “spoke this word openly.”
Now, I am quite confident that all the disciples blanched at this. This is exactly what they were NOT expecting as far as when the Messiah should appear. They were expecting – sooner or later – for the religious leadership to wake up, to come to their senses, and to receive their Rabbi as the Messiah as they had come to do. And, after that, Jesus would be elevated to the throne of David and lead the Jews in throwing off the Roman yoke.
But, what Jesus tells them is quite different. The leaders of the nation will not accept him; instead they will reject him. Jesus won’t ascend to David’s throne; instead he will suffer and be killed and after three days rise again. You might think that last bit would have caught their attention, but clearly it did not.
And, Peter, the chief of the disciples, wasted no time in taking action to repair the damage. Mark tells us that he took Jesus aside. He didn’t ask him a question; he took stronger action than that. It would have been something like grabbing Jesus’ arm and pulling him away from the rest of the disciples, so that Peter could bring Jesus up to speed on how he was alarming and confusing the disciples. And, both Mark and Matthew say that Peter rebuked Jesus.
Well, of course, Jesus was having none of this, and he gave to Peter as much and more than Peter gave to him. Turning away from Peter, Jesus faced the other disciples. And, then and only then did Jesus rebuke Peter – while Peter was at his back, and Jesus was looking at the rest of the disciples. And, so, Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
What an awkward situation that must have created. I don’t think the disciples had much doubt about what Peter was doing, even if he did take Jesus aside. And, they certainly didn’t have any doubt at all about how Jesus received Peter’s rebuke. Peter’s rebuke of Christ was intended to be private, but Jesus’ rebuke in response was about as public as you can get! Indeed, what Christ does next ensures that NO ONE can possibly ignore what he is beginning to tell his disciples, because Jesus puts his message out there not only for his disciples but for everyone outside this Apostolic circle.