Jesus and his disciples went into the villages near Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
They told him, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others one of the prophets.”
He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Jesus continued, “I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see God’s kingdom arrive in power.”
There’s a lot going on in this passage, so let’s jump right in!
I’ve heard that the first part of this can be understood like a presidential candidate trying the waters. That is, after working the campaign trail for a while, the candidate gets together with her advisors and ask how things are going, what people are thinking, what are her chances. “Your consituents think you have a shot.”
“What do you think?”
“We think you can go all the way!”
I like that idea. It shows us that Jesus was not just concerned about reconciling “the spiritual life,” but about reconciling the political world, too. The disciples said that the people think Jesus was a prophet but they think he’s more than that. They think he’s G_d’s anointed king. But, Jesus isn’t ready for people to know that yet.
He then tells them what going to happen. I think what he does is explain what his coronation is going to look like. That it’s not going to happen like they think it will. In fact, just the opposite. Instead of being honored and enthroned, the leaders are going to kill him.
I think this is why Peter corrects him (a much better translation of the Greek word). They had just talked about Jesus being Israel’s true king, and now Jesus thinks he’s going to get killed by the Empirical Religious System? Surely he’s not looking at this right! So Peter corrects him. Jesus looks at the others. They’re all nodding their heads in agreement.
But then Jesus sets them straight! This, this is the way he will become king. He’s still focused on becoming the proper king of Israel (and the world) but it will come through his torture and death. G_d will take this tool of the enemy and use it for good, for bringing in G_d’s promised Realm.
Furthermore, the way of the cross is not limited to Jesus. It’s The Way of Jesus. It’s The Way of the Realm of G_d. The cross will be taken as an emblem of oppression and reshaped into a way of service. The Way of Jesus is about self-sacrificial love toward others and all creation.
Lastly, there’s that weird statement about the coming of G_d’s Realm and the death of some of Jesus’ first followers. This can be a little complex, but let’s try and sort through it.
Although Jesus initiated the Realm of G_d during his ministry, it wasn’t fully established until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. During the time between Jesus ascension and the fall of Jerusalem (roughly 40 years), both Covenants were active. The Old Covenant System, with it’s sacrificial system, dietary laws, purity laws, etc., was still in full swing. Other G_d fearing Jews, however, believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (Christ) of Israel and the true King of the world, and were living The Way Jesus established. While many passages could be listed to make this point (e.g., the Acts of the Apostles), here are a couple of specific examples.
When the Gentiles (the people who were not Jewish) were beginning to follow Jesus, the first followers of The Way gathered to discuss how to blend them into the community with the Jewish followers of Jesus. After much consideration and conversation, James said:
“Therefore, I conclude that we shouldn’t create problems for Gentiles who turn to God. Instead, we should write a letter, telling them to avoid the pollution associated with idols, sexual immorality, eating meat from strangled animals, and consuming blood. After all, Moses has been proclaimed in every city for a long time, and is read aloud every Sabbath in every synagogue” (emphasis added).
Furthermore, after Paul had started following Jesus, he ran into all kinds of trouble from his fellow Jews. One of the occasions when he was on trial, Paul defended himself by saying:
You can verify that I went up to worship in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago. They didn’t find me arguing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd, whether in the synagogue or anywhere else in the city. Nor can they prove to you the allegations they are now bringing against me. I do admit this to you, that I am a follower of the Way, which they call a faction. Accordingly, I worship the God of our ancestors and believe everything set out in the Law and written in the Prophets. The hope I have in God I also share with my accusers, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. On account of this, I have committed myself to maintaining a clear conscience before God and with all people.
This idea of a inauguration and later establishment is nothing new. Even though the Israelites were rescued from Egypyt, it wasn’t until they entered the promised land (roughly 40 years later) that they were finally free.*
We see this even today. When the presidential election is over, and the winner elected, she is labeled the new President of the United States. A little while later, there’s the “swearing in” process where she’s “officially” acknowledged as the President. And, later still, there’s the full establishment of the new President and her staff.
What Jesus was telling his first followers was G_d’s Realm would be fully establishment before some of them passed away. And that’s exactly what happened. Of “the twelve,” all but John had died before Jerusalem fell.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
* Notice the “roughly 40 years” in both sections. There are several similarities between these two situations. The enslavement of people, their rescue by G_d (the exodus), their baptism, their 40 year wandering, and the final removal of bondage and entering into rest. The New Testament sees all of that as a “copy and shadow” of what the first followers of Jesus were going through. Perhaps we’ll go into that typology at a future time.