This Sunday reading is striking when read in contrast to daily events. Namely, how the Christian faith is being played out in those events. Christian symbols were on display at the capital riot on January 6. Right-wing extremists are incorporating the faith in their propaganda. This past week an open letter was sent out by over two hundred religious leaders denouncing the linking of the faith with white nationalism. So how do these items relate to the reading from Mark? Quite simply, Peter was urging Jesus to sell out.
Jesus just had a conversation with the disciples about his identity. Peter got the answer correct by calling Jesus the Messiah. The disciples knew what this meant for them and the rest of Israel. The messiah would restore the nation. This could only mean the power, wealth, control, glory, etc., as God’s favored nation. Yet, Jesus ordered them to keep this news quiet.
Jesus began talking about the inevitability of his death. Peter called him on such a teaching. The Messiah would live and not die. Then Jesus gave the damning rebuke,
“Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”Mark 8:33
Jesus bringing the kingdom and the world’s power were on a collision course. One was going to bring death. One was going to bring about the resurrection. Jesus would not ‘sell out’ for the world’s power. Jesus then gave a challenge to Peter, the rest of the disciples and to us as well.
What have we really gained if we have power, wealth, control, glory, etc., but had to sell out to get it? Is life really that cheap? Jesus’ insistence on bringing the kingdom to us shows that life matters. Our life matters. Life is valuable and needs to be kept for the kingdom where Jesus is Messiah and where through him the dead are raised.
So the Christian faith finds itself in daily events. It is being used to support extremism, white nationalism and the vain grasp for political power. Jesus’ refusal to give into Peter’s challenge shows what is valuable: our place, our lives, in the kingdom of God. Anything else just isn’t worthy.