This exchange between Jesus and the disciples, found in Mark 8:27-33 grabbed my attention tonight. In this era when “ministry” often consists of platform-building and brand-creating, I noticed how Jesus chose to respond during one of those time-stands-still moments when he could have told his disciples to use the planks of his ministry to build him a really snazzy Messiah-sized platform…
The group was walking, talking, perhaps, in clusters of two and three as they hiked the Galilean hills toward their next destination. There was always a next destination. Each stop on this road trip cut another facet into the prism that brought Jesus into sharper focus for each one of them. He walked with them, laughing and listening to them replay the delight on the once-blind man’s face back in Bethsaida after Jesus restored his sight. Spit, and twice placed his work-rough hands on the man’s vacant eyes.
And perhaps Jesus wondered in this moment just what his disciples saw in that moment. They’d been together for a string of miracle-filled weeks. He waited for a lull in the companionable conversations then voiced his question.
“Who do people say that I am?”
Was this a trick question? Their passive-voice responses hid them behind the gossip of the towns they’d visited: John the Baptist. Elijah. One of the prophets.
Their awkward answers sank into the hollows of the hills. The rhythm of the group’s pace slowed, then stopped. Jesus may have paused, waiting until He could look into the seeing eyes of each one of his friends.
“Who do you say that I am?”
No thought needed; Peter’s instant answer came in the same way that thunder follows midsummer lightening: “You’re the Messiah.”
The gravity of his response must have jolted the entire group as he warned them not to tell anyone about him, and describing in plain language what Peter’s confession meant: “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this…”(vs. 31-32)
Peter pulled Jesus aside in the heat of this revelation, Peter’s words of rebuke spoken with the desire to crown the Messiah with the honor due a reigning king. This picture of a suffering, shamed victim shattered the icon Peter carried in his soul. It is doubtful that “…after three days rise again” made any sense to him, to any of them, in light of the grim portrait Jesus had painted with His words. Peter’s words were larded with the kinds of temptations for comfort, power and glory that Jesus had battled at the start of his ministry.
Jesus’ rebuked his rebuker in the sternest manner possible: “‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'” (vs. 33)
He called to a crowd tracking the group to join them, and spoke the upside-down, inside-out words that silence the hammers of the platform builders, and still the manipulations of the brand-crafters:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 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 in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (vs. 34-38)
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So I have a question for you readers who are involved in some kind of public ministry (writer, speaker, pastor, teacher, worship leader), and you probably already know what it is:
How do you reconcile these words of Jesus with the urging of other ministry leaders that you must build your brand/construct your platform?