by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
September 10, 2012
Mark 8: 27-35
The Caesarea Philippi episode is central in the Gospel of Mark. After they had lived with him for a time, Jesus asks his disciples a decisive question, "Who do you say that I am?". On behalf of all, Peter answers without hesitating, "You are the Messiah." Finally, it seems like everything is clear. Jesus is the Messiah sent by God and the disciples are following him to collaborate with him.
Jesus knows that's not how it is. They haven't yet learned something very important. It's easy to confess Jesus in words, but they still don't know what it means to follow him closely, sharing his plan and his fate. Mark says that Jesus "began to teach them." It isn't just another teaching, but something fundamental that the disciples will have to assimilate little by little.
From the start he speaks to them "completely openly". He doesn't want to hide anything from them. They have to know that suffering will always accompany him in his task of opening the way to the Kingdom of God. In the end, he will be condemned by the religious leaders and die through violent execution. Only when he resurrects, will it be seen that God is with him.
Peter rebels against what he's hearing. His reaction is incredible. He takes Jesus aside with him to "rebuke him." He had been the first to confess him as the Messiah. Now he's the first to reject him. He wants to make Jesus understand that what he's saying is absurd. He isn't willing for him to follow this path. Jesus has to change this way of thinking.
Jesus reacts with unknown harshness. Suddenly he sees in Peter the features of Satan, the tempter in the desert who seeks to separate people from the will of God. He turns to face the disciples and literally rebukes Peter with these words: "Get thee behind me, Satan!" -- go back to your place as a disciple. Stop tempting me. "You are thinking as men do, not as God does."
Then he calls the people and his disciples to listen well to his words. He will repeat them on several occasions. They are never to forget them. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."
Following Jesus isn't an obligation. It's a free decision for each one. But we have to take Jesus seriously. Facile confessions aren't enough. If we want to follow him in his exciting endeavour of building a more humane, worthy, and joyful world, we have to be willing to do two things.
First, renounce projects and plans that are contrary to the Kingdom of God. Second, accept the suffering that may come to us for following Jesus and identifying with his cause.