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.”
As Christians, one of the things we believe is that Jesus is both, fully human and fully divine. Now, I’ve never been that good at math but my math is good enough to know that being BOTH 100% human and 100% divine, just doesn’t add up. How can anything, or anyone, be 100% one thing AND 100% another thing? The mind gets boggled… well… MY mind gets boggled!
Most people really don’t like their minds being completely boggled all the time and so, most of us… including me… tend to think of Jesus as mostly one or the other. I tend to do that in the same direction Peter did. Me and Peter… we like the Divine part best. “Who do you say that I am?” You’re the Messiah! The Son of the Living God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords! WooHoo! Go, Fight, Win, Divinity!
Which worked GREAT for Peter… for exactly three verses and then it all comes crashing down with, “Get behind me Satan!” The truth is, the 100% human part of Jesus, much to mine and Peter’s chagrin, insists on equal billing. Jesus demands we walk the knife’s edge and give Jesus BOTH his full divinity AND his full humanity. As I worked on this lesson, I could clearly see that, but honestly, I still really didn’t like it all that much. So I did what preachers do, and went way back to the beginning of Mark to see if I could preach around this thing! Instead, this is what I found:
Mark’s Gospel starts with John the Baptist, Jesus’s Baptism and the voice of God saying “You’re my Son!” DIVINITY! Great! But IMMEDIATELY Jesus is pushed out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. HUMANITY. Jesus walks by the sea, calls a few fishermen, teaches, casts out demons and heals Simon’s mother in law and when word gets out he heals the whole town. DIVINITY. Then while it was still dark he snuck out and went to a secluded place to pray and recover. HUMANITY. He tried to move on to do more teaching and was stopped by a leper, whom he healed. DIVINITY. Then got thrown out of a temple for his teaching. HUMANITY. Told a paralytic to “Take up your mat and walk!” DIVINITY. Got in a theology fight with the Pharisees. HUMANITY. Healed a withered hand. DIVINITY. Went out to sea to get away. HUMANITY. Huge crowds follow and called him the SON OF GOD. DIVINITY. Fights with his family who thinks he’s crazy. HUMANITY. Heals a Demoniac. DIVINITY. Escapes in a Boat. HUMANITY. Heals a bleeding woman and raises a dead girl. DIVINITY. Gets rejected in his hometown. HUMANITY. Sends the disciples out to heal people and they did! DIVINITY. Grieves the brutal death of his friend John the Baptist. HUMANITY. Feeds five thousand! DIVINITY! Sends the disciples off and climbed a mountain to pray exhausted. HUMANITY. Walks on water. DIVINITY. Fights with the Pharisees and goes up North to get away. HUMANITY. Heals the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter and the old Jewish deaf man and fed four thousand. DIVINITY. Escapes the crowd to get away to Caesarea Philippi. HUMANITY. Asks the disciples “Who do you say that I am” and Peter responds for the group and says “DIVINITY” and Jesus tells them he must suffer and die in his full… HUMANITY. Peter says “GOD FORBID YOUR HUMANITY” and Jesus says to Peter, “GET BEHIND ME SATAN!”
I know that was long, but to be fair, that was the entire first HALF of Mark’s Gospel! But do you see it? This means something! Jesus going back and forth between showing his HUMANITY and then his DIVINITY! That’s taken me 20 years of wearing this dress almost every Sunday to see! And what I’m beginning to see is that you and I… if we’re honest… we know NOT ONE THING about how to do miraculous healings, raise the dead or walk on water (unless you’ve been holding out on me!). But you and I… we know a LOT about desert times, fights with bullies, and living with families who think we’re crazy. You and I can relate to being tired, worn, and not acting out of our best selves. You and I know all about trying to get some peace, only to be tracked down by a kid, an office, a full-on-real emergency, or a perceived emergency about potato salad. You and I know what it is to be rejected. You and I know the real and deep pain of the death of someone we love. You and I know what it is to think about and face our own mortality. You and I… we KNOW humanity.
So, Jesus SHOWS us his humanity, because THAT’s the part of Jesus that we can recognize more easily in ourselves… and in his humanity he’s given us a door. A door through which we’re being invited over and over and over again to walk with Jesus from our very recognizable communion with his humanity into the much more difficult to see, but just as real, communion with his Divinity! St. Paul said it this way, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
I think, we’re being shown, over and over and over again the fullness of Jesus’s humanity so we can better see ourselves in that fully human person of Jesus. THEN, seeing ourselves in Jesus… Jesus becomes a person who is easy to relate to… easy to walk with… easy to live with. Then, as we walk that walk, day after day, walking and living with Jesus and our lives continue to grow in compassion, love, generosity and grace… grow into the Jesus WAY of living… we eventually walk right into the Truth… that we not only walk and live and share in Jesus’s humanity, but in some mysterious way… through a complete and unimaginable gift of immeasurable love… we’ve also been walking and living, fully wrapped up in and fully embraced by Jesus’s Divinity. And in Jesus’ Divine embrace, we not only walk toward life… but WE… HAVE… LIFE! A life of meaning, purpose, dignity and worth. And in that amazing gift which comes to us free in the waters of Baptism we’ve been given everything we need to play our part in the work God has given us to do, which as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is fond of saying, is to “change the world from the nightmare it is for so many into the dream that God intends.” By walking with Jesus we will find we have all the humanity and all the divinity we need to do this work in the world. Thanks be to God! Amen.