When Jesus was walking with his disciples toward Jerusalem before Palm Sunday, he shared with them what was about to happen:
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”Mark 10:32-34
This was the 3rd time in Mark’s gospel where Jesus tells his disciples he is going to die. The first time that Jesus told his disciples that he was going to die, Peter didn’t like what he heard:
[Jesus] spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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 8:32-33
Today is Palm Sunday and in past years we would come into our sanctuary waving palm branches and cheering as we came in. We celebrate because we know that our salvation comes from Jesus’ death, but the disciples were afraid of Jesus’ death. If Jesus died, all they had done for the previous 3 years would be turned upside down. It would be lost. All they knew as they journeyed into Jerusalem with Jesus one last time was that their world was about to be changed. Nothing would be the same anymore.
When Peter rebukes Jesus for saying that he’ll die, Jesus responds to Peter by calling him Satan. Peter isn’t Satan, but the words that Peter is speaking to Jesus echo the temptations that Satan spoke to Jesus when he was in the wilderness fasting for 40 days and being tempted 3 years earlier. It is the line that follows that I want to focus on: “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Peter’s perspective of what was happening was from a human perspective. What other perspective could Peter have? In a similar scripture in Matthew 16, Peter is praised moments earlier by Jesus for recognizing him as the messiah and he tells Peter that this was revealed to him by God. And so in one moment Peter is seeing something from God’s perspective and then the next moment from a human perspective.
Jesus is saying that all this bad stuff that is about to happen to him is something that will be good for everyone, Peter just can’t see it. They all miss the point that Jesus makes about his coming death: “Three days later he will rise”
March 8th was the last service that we had in our church building. Phil Shertzer was preaching. His message, which I’ve listened to, centered on being baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. Phil talked about how being baptized with the Holy Spirit will turn our world upside down. As I was listening to the recording, a particular part of his message caught my attention:
“There is major change coming to the church of Jesus Christ. That includes MMC, that includes the Mennonite denomination. Some of the structures and the things we trusted in for years are crumbling. They are changing they no longer work. It doesn’t mean that God is asleep. It just means that God is about to change some things. Are we ready to roll with those changes?”Phil Shertzer, March 8th, Millersville Mennonite Church sermon
The very next week, March 15, things changed. And they are still changed. Our structure of Sunday morning gatherings at our church building is changed. God is not asleep. It means though that God is changing things. Are we ready to roll with those changes?
We can roll with these changes, but our perspective will need to change. If we look at this from a human perspective then all we will see is what we will lose and we will never see the part about being raised up that comes after. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, he reminds the Corinthians that the church is given a gift from God that is greater than any gift the world has to offer:
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.1 Corinthians 2:6-12
The church in Corinth is like us today: We have access to the mind of God through the Holy Spirit, but we need to become more mature in listening to God. It is important for us to understand, from our human perspective, that we need God’s perspective. If we believe that our human wisdom is enough then we will never take the time to listen for God. As I listened to what Phil preached and what Antonio preached, one thought that I would like to emphasize is that we are meant to hear God, not just in reading scripture, but in prayer. During these days, I want us to work at reading scripture and prayer, and during our times of worship to take the time to ask God “What are you saying to me in this scripture?” or during prayer to ask God to speak and then just listen.