Lent 2-B Gen 17:1-7, 15-16, Rm 4:13-2531-38, Mk 8:31-38
Trinity, Three Rivers
“Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.….” (Mk 8:33)
“The devil made me do it!” Ever hear that saying? Ever think or say it yourself? It comes, of course, from the Filp Wilson television show which started in 1970. Flip Wilson, whose real name was Clerow Wilson, was a very popular African American comic. “He played host to many African American entertainers and performed in comedy sketches. He greeted all his guests with the "Flip Wilson Handshake," which started with hand slaps and progressed to hip-bumps…. His characters included Reverend Leroy, pastor of the Church of What’s Happening Now; and Geraldine, whose line “The devil made me do it” became a national expression. The show aired through 1974, gaining high ratings and popularity among viewers. It also won strong critical acclaim, nominated for 11 Emmys during its run, winning two. Wilson himself won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Series.”
We have many popularized views of demons, the devil, and of course, Satan. There are hosts of TV shows now depicting the powers of evil in various forms, and it is easy to speculate that these powers are behind much of what happens in our lives and in human history today.
Who is Satan, and why does Jesus call Peter Satan in the Gospel this morning? The more important question behind the Gospel is who is Jesus? What is your vision of Jesus? What can we expect from Jesus? The difficulty of hearing only small sections of the Gospel read on Sunday mornings is that we lose the context of the passages. Right before what we just heard, we learn that Jesus and his disciples are on the way to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. As they are going, Jesus asks them: “Who are people saying that I am?” (Mk 8:27). The disciples quote some famous names: John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the other prophets. They knew Jesus was famous because of the crowds that followed them. They knew what people were saying. Jesus avoids the generic answers and comes to the direct point: “But you, who do you say that I am?” Peter answers correctly, “You are the Messiah.” (Mk 8:29).
That answer does little for us, except agree with our religious education that Jesus is the Messiah. We could also answer the question: You are the Messiah. But for Peter and the other disciples at that time, in our language it would mean: you are the one who is going to make our lives better. You are the one who will eliminate suffering and oppression and bring back good times for all of us. Is that our vision of Jesus also? Do we expect God through Jesus will rescue us in difficulties, take away all suffering from our lives, and bring us abundant blessings?