Sometimes Jesus spoke mysteriously. Through stories that seemed like riddles, Jesus talked about the past, predicted the future, and shed cutting light into the present. Very few people, even those who thought they knew Him best, understood most, or even half, of what He was saying at a given moment. But then there were moments when the fog lifted. When Jesus was absolutely positively clear. When He left no interpretation to what He was saying.
Mark 8 is one of those times:
“Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him” (Mark 8:31-32).
No riddles here. No illustrations. No stories about virgins and temples and other such things. Here was just the plain truth of what was coming down the pike very, very soon – Jesus, the One in whom these men had placed all their hope for the future – would be mercilessly slaughtered at the very hands of those whom His disciples were expecting Him to conquer. And the clarity was too much for Peter in the moment.
“Jesus? Could I have a word with you?”
Yep – that’s Peter. Pulling Jesus aside. And what makes it even more astounding is what this same Peter had done moments before:
“You are the Messiah!” (Mark 8:29). That was Peter confessing Jesus as the Son of the Living God. But here He is, concerned that Jesus surely has some misunderstanding about what it means to be that Messiah. Surely the Messiah could not be killed. Could not be humiliated. Could not be be rejected. Jesus just needed a bit of correction.
And so we shake our heads at Peter – poor, poor Peter – the one who can’t seem to get out of his own way so many times in the gospels. It’s amazing, though, how many times I scoff at another only to find the Holy Spirit turning the mirror on me. The truth is I find myself pulling Jesus aside all the time. It’s during all those times when I read something He said or did, and think to myself, Surely He didn’t mean what it sounded like it meant. Or, surely this doesn’t apply to me in the way it seems to.
Ever do that? Here are three times it’s happened to me recently:
1. Because of His extremity.
As a matter of fact, if we keep reading in Mark 8, we will find that Jesus not only predicted that He would go to the cross; He said that anyone who follows Him would have to take up their own cross as well. Now I read that, and I think to myself, Sure, Jesus. I’ll be ready for that. But we both know that you aren’t really asking me to die.
Except that might indeed be what He’s asking me to do. If not physically, He’s certainly asking me to do it spiritually. Emotionally. To my dreams, ambitions, and sin. He’s commanding this death in me. For real.
2. Because of His intrusion.
Jesus really doesn’t do the “personal space” thing very well. In fact, He seems bent on invading the most private parts of our lives. He is intent on disturbing not only our actions, but our hearts, emotions, and thoughts. He will push Himself further and further in, and sometimes, it’s frankly very awkward. You want to do one thing, and Jesus has simply barged His way in. So you need to just pull Him aside and help Him see that you still value your independence and rights, though you are glad to be in a “relationship” with Him.
3. Because of His simplicity.
“Don’t worry.” Jesus said that, and it’s more than a suggestion. It’s a command. That means the anxiety I feel is more than a momentary feeling; it’s disobedience. But here, too, I pull Jesus aside: Don’t worry? Come on, Jesus. You can’t really mean that. I mean, look at the level of responsibility I have. And have you looked around the world lately? Imagine trying to raise a kid in these circumstances.
Sometimes we pull Jesus aside not because His commands seem to extreme, and not because they are so intrusive, but because they are so naive. So simple. Especially given the complex nature of all our issues… right?
Unless, of course, Jesus isn’t interested in being polite and accommodating, but is instead interested in burning away the chaff of our lives with His love, no matter how awkward it might be in the moment.