He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
         Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”
                   —Mark 8.29

Really? To Peter?
Wisdom Teacher maybe; friend, commander, co-conspirator,
confounder, eye-opener, spiritual director, divine prodder,
midwife of the New Life—but not a Christological assertion.

The Messiah was a mighty warrior who would liberate Israel
from Roman oppression. A kind of Superhero.
Jesus might have quoted Princess Bride:
“You keep saying that word, but I do not think it means
what you think it means.”

To Jesus being God’s anointed (“Messiah”)
meant giving oneself over to the power of God’s grace alone;
being vulnerable, even powerless.
Liberating us not from a political situation
but from sin, from death, fear, addiction and delusion—
freeing us from what traps us away from God.
It wasn’t about conquering but standing with the oppressed,
embodying the prophetic call for justice
by embodying the suffering of God in the poor.
It meant the cross. Triumph hidden in defeat.
Losing one’s life, trusting resurrection.

So Jesus tells the disciples to avoid that Messiah talk.
Can we do that? Set aside being on the winning side,
being “saved?” Can we stand instead with the oppressed,
let the blessing of the poor in spirit be our only blessing?
Let the grace of God be our only power?
“If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me….”

Jesus says “Get behind me.” And he starts walking.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 10, 2021

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