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."--Mark 8:31-33
Get behind me, Satan. Whoa! I don't know about any of you, but as a child I always thought Satan was that red devil guy with the pitchfork. But as I got older and began seriously looking at the Scriptures, I learned that when the Bible, and especially Jesus, refer to "Satan" it is a word for "The Tempter." And the tempter could be anybody or anything that pulls away from God and living in Love. So when I looked at this passage for tomorrow's gospel, I looked not only at the "Get behind me, Satan!" but the follow up line of "For you are setting your mind not on divine things but human things."
Because this is Mark's gospel, we don't know what Peter said to get Jesus riled up. But given that Peter is always at-the-ready for Jesus, he might have been telling him, "Hey, you can't die! You're my hero!!" And Jesus, knowing he is a man with a specific mission and not an easy mission at that, may have been torn. He knows he is going up against a buzz saw of Roman might and will be provoking the Jewish leaders who were happy with the status quo. The Mark version of Jesus is the most human portrayal of him. The Mark Jesus gets an earful from the Syrophoenician woman when he calls her a dog. The Mark Jesus goes off to pray and asks God to "remove this cup from me" as he senses the coming trouble. So, my sense of what this Markian version of Jesus is saying to Peter is, "Don't get attached to me the man!"
This same idea appears in John's gospel in the reading often done on Easter Day. Mary Magdalene, upon finally understanding that the man standing with her is not the gardener but the resurrected Christ, is ecstatic that he is alive. But before she can wrap her arms around him in a triumphant and joyous hug, Jesus tells her, "Do not hold on to me because I have not ascended to the Father." Again, when I read that line, I think he is trying to convey that the flesh and blood body is not it. The sum of who he is, and what he is all about, is larger than that.
It's easy to become attached to what we know, or what we think we know. I think this is true of the people in our lives. We think we know someone. Perhaps, like what I imagine was in Peter's mind about Jesus, we have put someone on a pedestal as a hero. When I was in radio, there were people who assumed so much about me based on the sound of my voice. They knew how I dressed, how I styled my hair, my marital status. Trust me, I shocked a lot of folks when they discovered that their middle-aged, Cokie Roberts look-alike was in fact a buzz cut, twenty-something lesbian!
In a recent exchange with my mentor, we recounted our impressions of each other at our first meeting in my dad's assisted living facility. She was wary of me because she had heard that I was the daughter who was angry at the church. I was suspicious of her because she was a priest from "that church." She turned out to be an approachable and trustworthy friend. And I now navigate a path of being not only out as a lesbian but also out as a Christian, a combination that often times mystifies people. But, as I have noted several times on this blog, "Nobody Said It Was Easy."
As we continue this Lenten walk, think about the people in your life. How are you perceiving them? Do you see just what you want to see in them, or can you see them more deeply and completely?