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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Peter: Home Run and Strike Out

The Gospel for today should be a continuation of Mk 8:22-33. (However, it is a Feast Day, The Transfiguration which takes precedence with its own set of readings). It is my habit to pray with the cycle, just because of the continuation. So today I saw three scenes in rapid succession. First Jesus encounters a blind man, whom He heals. But not all at once and not without some strange use of His own spittle. There is much to wonder about here. Eye maladies are common in dirt poor areas.Without access to medical care and medicine, minor things become major things. It is probably likely that the man went blind. This makes sense of his statement that he could see, but people look like walking trees (how else would he know what a tree looks like).

It is not common for Jesus' miracles to unfold in slow motion. Perhaps Mark is making another point with the narrative? Immediately afterward, Jesus has them in Caesarea Phillipi.There was a temple there, of recent construction, made in honor of the god Caesar. CONTEXT matters. Jesus' question is not asked just anywhere, but in the location where the Romans worship the "god-man" Roman emperor. The answer, as we know, includes the popular opinions about Jesus' identity (tied to prophet role). However, when Jesus asks the guys "Who do you say I am?" it is Peter who answers.

You are the Messiah (Christ in Greek, Annointed in English), or, the King. The problem is, the word King has lots of connotation. In the Jewish Bible there are extensive reflections on what a king is and what a king does. Most of it is not flattering. In the end, the people who run government tend to take care of themselves and their friends. It is the way humans act. If you or I were the King it would be no different. However, Jesus is different. He explains that King means rejection, suffering, death and resurrection. Hard words to hear and harder to understand.

Peter, recently successful in answering the question, suddenly feels compelled to correct Jesus. The Greek word, "rebuke," appears frequently to describe Jesus' treatment of demons. Peter rebukes Jesus. Let that idea sink in. Jesus in response rebukes Peter. So there you have it. Peter goes from the only guy who "gets it" to the guy who "misses it" the most. Which brings us back to the slow motion healing of the blind guy.

"Can you see?" Jesus asks.
"kinda, sorta," the man replied. The blind man, who is a type of Peter, needs more time. Peter, who is a type of the church//disciple, also needs more time.

Yes he hit a home run, knocked one out of the park. Peter looked to be in the groove, but as quickly as the next moment he was floundering and at odds with Jesus and God's plan. Peter's wisdom and insight are only part of the puzzle of Peter. There is so much ignorance and darkness there as well. In him. In us.

The church today, and all Christians, are still floundering around much of the time. Middle class life styles and the values of a typical American do not mesh well with the Gospel message of a crucified Messiah. I shudder when I hear most Christians talk about Jesus because they, like me, have twisted Him to fit their own wants and needs (often in a finely developed theology). [This includes the people who have left church, too. probably more so!] Even if we "get it" in part, we miss it badly in other parts. All of us, even the professionals (especially the professionals) like me, are more prone, as Jesus said, to "think like man than God." In the end, Jesus heals and gives us sight. But it takes a long time and requires some of His spit (whatever that might be a symbol of). It also takes time and we do well to not trust our (in)sight too much.

It is not hopeless. Apparently we will be rebuked from time to time, but if we hang on and keep trusting some day it will all  be clear. In the meantime, we do well not to be too terribly self-impressed by our own wisdom and not get too woefully sad and depressed by our own failures. We do best to keep our faltering eyes on Jesus and follow Him. Close proximity is the antidote and hope! Close proximity to a Messiah on a cross means we get some "wood work" done ourselves. Some things are only understood with experience...

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