Make Israel Great Again

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Mark 8:33

In preparing for the Lenten sermon series on discipleship our church is planning — I couldn’t pass the passage above where Peter first rebuked Jesus then in turn is rebuked by Jesus.

Why was Peter so bothered by what Jesus said that he felt the need to pull Jesus aside and tell Jesus a piece of his mind?

Oh, Peter — bless his heart. Is there a more relatable disciple of Jesus?
Quick to speak, slow to think.
Peter’s rebuke of Jesus is important to pay attention to because we make the same mistake Peter did more often than we’d like to admit.

Peter was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. But for Peter, the Messiah was to restore Israel’s kingdom once more; vanquish the Roman presence; establish the kingdom of Israel once more. To make Israel great again.

To be fair, Peter wasn’t the only one. All the (male) disciples believed this — which is evident in the request of James’s and John’s mother to have her sons sit on the right and left of Jesus when his kingdom is established.
Most of those who believed Jesus was Christ believed this. They anointed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, shouting “Save us!” But that same crowd turned on him within a week when they realized he wasn’t going to lead a physical (and violent) revolution. They’d rather give Barabbas a second chance. At least he killed a few of the Romans.

When Jesus predicted his death, Peter felt that Jesus was talking jibberish; nonsense.
Because Peter looked for God in the places of power and strength. Since he looked for God in power and strength, so brokenness, betrayal, loss, and death were to be avoided at all costs because those things portray weakness. How can you defeat the an empire while displaying weakness?
Death and loss did line up with Peter’s idea of the Christ and therefore he had to take Jesus aside and speak some sense about who Peter thought the Messiah should be.

Some 2000 odd years later, we still look for God in the wrong places.
We leave behind the vulnerable and allow ourselves to be seduced and intoxicated by power; money; status.
We obsess over the image of Jesus as a powerful king in the glimpses of Revelation and forgo the servant leadership that Jesus modeled and displayed in the Gospels.
Jesus washing the feet of his disciples; eating and drinking with the sinners; restoring the oppressed; loving the other… it’s something to romanticize rather than follow.

Richard Rohr writes that Jesus isn’t found in power but in pain:

So Jesus hides with the crucified ones. He is found wherever the pain is found. Jesus is always loyal to human suffering, more than any group or religion.That is where we will meet him… Those whose hearts are opened to human pain will see Jesus everywhere… This is God’s hiding place, so only the humble will find him!

Just This by Richard Rohr

So, what does greatness in the kingdom of God look like?

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus

How may Jesus’ view of “greatness” differ from the greatness that we American Christians clamor for — particularly in the lens of making America great again?

Peter wanted the Christ to be an agent of power and might. Someone who was going to usurp the Roman authority to military power and to reestablish the kingdom of Israel to greatness once more.
He couldn’t have been further from the truth for Jesus was going to (and always will) leverage the power of sacrificial love in his mission.

And he implores us over and over to do the same.

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