Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.
You know, nothing bad is supposed to happen to messiahs. A ‘messiah’ is someone whom God has anointed and chosen. A messiah stops bullets in his teeth, leaps buildings with a single bound, and puts all the bad guys where they belong. A messiah strides to inevitable victory; he cannot be defeated.
Jesus has created a huge stir in Galilee. He has healed people, touched lepers, confronted forces of demonic proportions, and spoken with authority. People are talking about him. They have all sorts of ideas about who he is: he must be some hero back from the grave, someone like John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets.
So when Jesus asks the disciples who he is, it’s not altogether obvious that he is the One they had been waiting for to deliver Israel: the Messiah. But Peter gets it—or does he?
Peter says the right thing:
You are the Messiah.
But warning bells are ringing for Jesus. He’s not you’re normal kind of messiah. He isn’t a messiah who’ll lead the troops to victory, throw the Romans out and bring in the golden age. Jesus is a messiah who dies in defeat. They’d never heard of such a thing before. So while Peter says Jesus is the Messiah, he is talking about the wrong kind of messiah. Jesus needs to help them all to see what sort of messiah he is.
So he says to them, ‘quite openly’, no secrets:
…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.
They didn’t hear that last bit. It’s like when you go to the doctor, and she says, ‘You’ve got a lump. It might be cancer, but we’ll be able to remove it and you should be ok.’
You’ve stopped listening at the word ‘cancer’. The glimmer of hope the doctor threw out was just white noise. You walk away feeling stunned.
Peter heard words like ‘great suffering’, ‘rejected’ and ‘killed’. Nothing else penetrated.