One Way

 

A few years ago, Allison and I headed out to dinner with another couple.  We picked Becky and Carl up, then headed to downtown Frederick… to one of those restaurants that is typical for locals returning home to visit their parents and friends. Downtown Frederick is made up of grid-like streets, one-way streets going north and south, as well as east and west.

We parked in Allison’s ‘06 Toyota Corolla in a parking garage, then went to dinner. After dinner, we headed down one of the side alleyways Frederick is known for. They are usually barely wide enough to find a single car down but Allison’s Corolla was small enough to have plenty of room. As Allison exited garage, heading down the alley towards East Patrick Street…

 if it was a movie or one of those don’t text and drive advisory scare commercials, next I’d shift to a freeze frame of our stunned scared faces, you’d hear rubber screech on pavement, glass crunch, metal crumple, windows shatter, an airbag muffle a scream and then the frame would unfreeze to police lights…that kind of thing… you hear, “if there’d been other way to go we would’ve gladly taken it, any other direction…”

Like I said, you could say we saw the light.


“It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.[1]” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.

But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost![2]

Anyone else think this sounds like overkill? Like Jesus is overreacting a bit?

Just before this text Peter had stumbled upon the right answer[3]. He appeared to have seen the light, calling Jesus the Messiah. But here he apparently didn’t understand what he was saying.

Because no sinner has laid out how the Son of Man must proceed, using words like rejection and suffering, is why Peter rebukes Jesus. He rebukes Jesus. Rebukes- a word normally reserved for when Jesus exorcises demons from possessed people. Peter tries to rebuke Jesus and instead Jesus rebukes Peter: “Get behind me Satan!”[4]

It sounds like overkill until you stop to consider how what Jesus was telling them about Messiah and Son of Man contradicted everything they assumed about those words, about who he was supposed to be. According to Daniel 7 the Son of Man isn’t supposed to suffer rejection, shame, and crucifixion. The Son of Man is supposed to come in glory, come on the clouds not on a cross. The Son of Man is supposed to wrestle dominion from the Powers of the world, and all the peoples and nations should serve him. Peter and his people, their scripture promised, believed, the Messiah would come and like David of old with the sword, deliver God’s People from their enemies. Not die to them.

Jesus has got it all wrong, Peter tries to explain, tries to set Jesus straight, get him back on the right way of this one-way Messiah-ship. If you’re the Son of Man, Peter all but says, this is how it’s supposed to play out. It’s not about taking up crosses; it’s about taking out those who build them. ‘All the kingdoms of the world and their splendor can be yours’ Jesus[5].

In other words, Peter rebukes Jesus with the very words we heard Satan tempt Jesus with in the wilderness last week when Tim preached.

Jesus responds the way he does to Peter not because Peter doesn’t appreciate the value of self-sacrifice. It warrants a reaction stronger than “You’re not getting this!” “You haven’t been listening. Wake up and pay attention Peter!” It isn’t that the disciples, the most trusted of Jesus’ followers, his closest of friends, have just missed the point.

Jesus responds the way he does because Peter is tempting Jesus as Satan had (maybe Satan has possessed Peter?), tempting Jesus to establish his Kingdom by any other means than the cross.

Get behind me Satan, Jesus says to his friend. I know it is written…about Son of Man…about Messiah…but I say to you…the Son of Man must “proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.[6]


Tim wanted me to tell you about the time I saw the light.

Lucky for the Corolla, and our insurance premium, the side mirrors folded in, taking the brunt of the 5 MPH accident. The driver, obviously intoxicated, knew enough the error of his travels to at the least slow down as he hit us.

 

The car was being driven by a drunk driver. It was a one-way alley.

He decided, if that’s the right word to describe a drunk driver, it would be best to head down the one-way alley we were on, coming at us head on.

Tim wanted me to tell you about the time I saw the light but it’s not quite that simple, is it?

I could tell this story one way in relation to Mark 8. I could point out how just like we were on a one-way street, Jesus says there’s only one way to the Father, his way of self-sacrifice etc. I could then end the sermon by reminding you and exhorting you to go out and….

But the other way to tell the story is that there’s never really just one way, right? To say there’s one way is to say there’s another way too, a wrong one, a way that if you go down it you’re certain to get yourself killed and quite possibly, in the process, get others killed.

And sometimes, there’s not any clear signs about which way you’re supposed to go. Sometimes it depends on where you’re standing. Sure, the driver was under the influence but until he hit us he would’ve sworn he was driving the right way down the street.


We like to imagine the disciples just refuse to see the light. They do not understand what Jesus is saying because self-sacrifice is something they, we, struggle with but don’t forget, these guys sacrificed more than any of us to follow Jesus in the first place. They dropped their fishing nets, that is, their families and livelihoods, and followed. They’ve already by chapter 8 violated all kinds of laws by being Jesus’ followers.

Their reluctance to sacrifice and suffer isn’t what’s going on here.

Sure, I go out of my way to avoid suffering. I don’t “embrace” it like Jesus tells us. Sure, most of us go out of our way to ensure that we have the most comfortable day possible, from the way we order our routines in the morning, to what we listen to on the radio, to the people we interact with. We do not even put obstacles in place that might cause us to be uncomfortable.

 

But the point of this passage isn’t that we should give up Diet Coke or chocolate, or meat. It isn’t even that…. serving and sacrificing…

We haven’t really seen the light until we’ve realized that, so far as he’s been taught by his scriptures, Peter’s right.

The Son of Man is supposed to arrive “in a whirl of clouds.[7]” The Messiah is supposed to be a King of Kings, a King like other Kings but to the nth degree.

The Son of Man isn’t supposed to “proceed to an ordeal of suffering.[8]” The Messiah isn’t supposed to wear a crown of thorns, naked and jeered and forsaken.

This isn’t how the story is supposed to play out. Jesus talking about rejection and shame and suffering and a cross- the cross in God’s own Word is identified as THE absolute sign of alienation and God forsakenness[9].

We haven’t really seen the light until we realize how Jesus sounds to Peter, and the disciples, as irresponsible and out of sorts and needing an intervention as a drunk driver careening the wrong way down a one-way street.


During Lent, we make a big deal about denying yourself and taking up the cross. The saving power of sacrifice seems as obvious to us as a one-way street sign.

But we haven’t seen the light, the counterintuitive light of the gospel, the shocking good news of Easter, until we realize how from Peter’s angle, and with good reason, it looks like Jesus driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

This isn’t how the Son of Man, the Messiah, brings the Kingdom.

Get behind me, Satan.

 

After all, Paul who writes:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”[10]

Deny yourself. Take up your cross[11].

Paul can only write that because Paul knows what Peter here in Mark 8 does not know, that this life of self-sacrifice Jesus announces, God will vindicate it on Easter by raising it from the dead. Until Easter, the cross and a life that leads to it is exactly what Paul says it is: “foolishness and shame[12].”

As much as we talk about taking up a cross at Lent, the only sign we have that Peter isn’t right to rebuke Jesus and keep from a cross- the only sign we have is an empty grave.

But because of that empty grave, we can take up our crosses, all evidence to the contrary and….

We can deny ourselves, at times making costly choices, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord of all and not the noises and idols we make for ourselves. We begin to live into the life Jesus has called us into. The life, through the waters of Baptism, which we are called to. Our called lives remove the obligation and replace it with a feeling of willingness, to take up our crosses, and go to where we are called.


But I wonder- is that all the light there is for us to see here today?

Likely if I go on you’ll think I’ve managed to take a passage as safe and unremarkable as an ‘06 Toyota Corolla and crash it at 5MPH.

But I wonder- maybe there’s another glaring sign in this passage that we seldom notice? And maybe in not noticing it we end going the wrong way down a one-way street?

Maybe, especially in Lent, we’re supposed to see how easy it is for us, Jesus’ baptized and called friends and followers, to start speaking Satan’s lines. If it was tempting for Jesus to have a Kingdom by any other means than the cross, surely, it’s tempting for us to want to have Jesus without the means by which he establishes his Kingdom. Surely, it’s as easy for us as it was for Peter to be under the influence and want Jesus but to want him on different terms.

We want Jesus to be our Loving Savior but we don’t really want to love our enemies.

We want Jesus to be…but we don’t really much want to…

Maybe we haven’t seen all the light there is to see here until we’ve looked at Peter and like we’re looking in a rear-view mirror see our own reflection.

[1] Mark 8.31

[2] Mark 8.31-33

[3] Mark 7.29

[4] Mark 8.33

[5] Matthew 4

[6] Mark 8.31

[7] Daniel 7.13

[8] Mark 8.31

[9] Deuteronomy 21.22-23

[10] Philippians 2.5-11

[11] Philippians 2.8

[12] 1 Corinthians 1.18