Pentecost 16, Year B

The Gospel Mark 8:27-38

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his
disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others,
Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone
about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He
said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and
looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting
your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their
life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save
it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can
they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this
adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in
the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

CF Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people
say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered
him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but
my Father in heaven.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades
will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you
bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in
heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Today’s gospel is familiar to most of us.
We start out with Jesus and his students,

Walking to Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea Philippi was famous back then for a cave that Gentiles
Thought was an opening to hades.
Caesarea Philippi was hell on wheels.

In today’s Gospel Jesus seems to be a little bit upset.
He’s impatient because his disciples aren’t getting it.

They just can’t see the Truth that Jesus is trying to show them.
And time is running out.

So, as they walked Jesus pointedly asked,
“Who do other people say that I am?”
His guys mentioned dead prophets.
“John the Baptist”. “Elijah”.

And then Jesus asked, “ … who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”
The world was still blind, but this time Peter got it right!

Mark bracketed this story with two other stories,
about Jesus’ healing blind men.

These symbolized not only human blindness,
but God’s power to open eyes and hearts.

“You have eyes” he would say to others, “but you don’t see”.
“ears, but you don’t hear?”
You’ve seen all that I’ve done, but you still don’t get it!
C’mon, Man. Get a grip.

“Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes…”
We think we know what this story is about. But I wonder.
Do we really know what Jesus was saying?
And if we do, are we really willing to go down that road?

Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Messiah.” We say that too.
The Messiah died for others.
But our culture tells us that our best life, is lived for ourselves.
As the Baptist preachers say. “That’s a lie from the pit of hell”.

Jesu was a pretty intense guy, by modern standards.
Time was short. He knew he was headed for a messy death.
Who wouldn’t be intense?

My late cousin Carl owned a string of hamburger joints.
He once told me that customers would get really mad
If their sandwich wasn’t fast and perfect.
That’s us. America 2021. Me. Me. Me.

Children who can’t even leave the house without a cell phone!

Jesus woke up one day, and realized he was headed for Calvary.
Wonder how we’d feel if that happened to us?
That’d pretty much ruin my day.
What if we could say Yes, and save 1,000 lives?
Would we say, Yes? 10,000? 100,000?
Where do we draw the line?

Seems like the whole world is caught up in a crazy debate,
about whether we have the “right” to refuse a vaccination.
It’s my body and my rights, folks say.
Maybe so. Maybe not. WWJD ?
What Would Jesus Do?

In the Garden Jesus said to his Father: “Let this cup pass from me”.

But, his Father said, “No”.

So, Jesus said, “…your will be done”.

Self-denial is the sum and substance of a faithful Christian life!

When we say “Yes”, when others say “No”,
We don’t deny ourselves of much these days, but when we do,
we redefine our lives, as Christians.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus and his guys were
in a region called “Caesarea Philippi”.
Near where the Golan Heights are today.

It wasn’t considered a safe place, back then.

Kind of scary and creepy.
It was associated with the Greek god Pan.

“Caesarea Philippi” was 25 miles, from Jesus’ home base.
Jesus and his guys left their safety net, at the Sea of Galilee,
way behind.

Jesus took his guys way outside their comfort zone.
Cause that’s what Jesus does.
He wants us to get out of our safe place, too, and get out on a limb.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as a Christian nation.
We say we are. And it’s mostly true. We try to be anyway.
But we don’t agree on what being a Christian looks like.
We don’t agree on what’s supposed to happen on Sunday morning.

But Jesus showed us what it looks like to live as a Christian.
It’s not about security. It’s about dangling, out on a limb.
It’s about embracing change and taking a chance.
It’s about saying “Yes”, when we really want to say “Oh, Hell, No”.

We are just folks. We are Mere Humanity.

But that’s enough to take the first step.

Was Jesus naïve? Nope. I don’t think so.

Today, we imagen ourselves as clever, and free,
But we are as easily bamboozled as any generation.
That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we don’t have to be geniuses, to follow Jesus.

We needn’t be rich. We needn’t be healthy. We needn’t be young.
We only need be willing.

“If any want to become my followers” he said,
“let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.”