Setting Jesus Straight


I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

Not enough to explode my soul

or disturb my sleep,

but just enough to equal

a cup of warm milk

or a snooze in the sunshine…

I want ecstasy, not transformation.

I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.

I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

                                                — from Three Dollars Worth of God by Wilbur Rees

Mark 8:27-33

Peter got the answer right. When Jesus asked the disciples for their view on His identity, Peter, true to form, spoke first.

“You are the Christ,” he said (Mark 8:29).

The Christ. The Messiah. The one for whom everyone had been waiting and watching and praying. The God-sent being who would set all things right, no one was quite sure how, but the promises said He would make some changes in the way the world worked. And now, in that moment, it was clear: He was among them. But then this Messiah began to speak again…about His approaching suffering, His torture and humiliation at the hands of His enemies, and then His impending death.  

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him (vs. 31-32). 

A dead Messiah?

No, that couldn’t be. Surely not. Peter took Him aside to say so. Jesus had it all wrong. Didn’t He understand how this Messiah-thing was supposed to work? Certainly a few words with Omniscience Himself would set Him on the right track again.

But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (v. 33).

Big “ouch” moment for Peter. Didn’t he know better than to try and tell Jesus how to do His job? Why would anyone think even for a moment that he would have a better understanding of how things should work than the Creator Himself? How could a mere human, not only fraught with the natural shortcomings of a finite being but with a mind thoroughly twisted and tainted by the influence of sin tell an infinite and perfectly holy God how He just doesn’t get it?


Big “ouch” moment for me.

How many times have I done the same thing? I tell God how to operate. I lay out my plans before Him. I point and instruct, fuss and fume, scheme and manipulate. And God reminds me that He takes pleasure in doing His own will, not mine (Ps. 135:6). 

We don’t get to choose the kind of Messiah we want.

If you want a King who wants your happiness as His greatest good, well, you’ll be disappointed. Desire a God who exists to do your bidding? He doesn’t play that game. Take Him aside to set Him straight and tell Him what’s up? Be prepared for a painful answer: anything less than the full role of the Messiah is not of God.

When I try to reduce His power, His influence or His reach into my life, I am doing exactly what Peter was doing: trying to give the Messiah a makeover. God made humans in His image, and now we spend our time attempting to make Him into our likeness. We love God, but don’t want Him to be meddlesome. 

Some might say, “But wait. Maybe Peter’s motivation was well-meant. Perhaps he loved Jesus so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of Him dying.” Maybe that’s true in part. But perhaps it goes deeper than just not wanting to see Jesus suffer. The Messiah who doesn’t sacrifice can hardly ask you to do so as well. If He lays down His life before the Father, what will God expect from me and you?

He desires nothing less than our full submission and our unreserved, unflinching obedience to Him. In short, complete loyalty to the role of the Messiah in our lives. Not that we will ever be perfect here, not hardly. But I must strive to give up more and more of my life to His will and His power. I can never opt for partial obedience and hope that I will never be asked for more. “Halfway surrender” is not only a contradiction, but is also another way of saying “rebellion.” Am I more loyal to His desired will or my own will? If the answer is “His will,” then I will follow Him in laying down my life.  

This simple truth cuts deepest: He died for our sin so that we could die to our sin. 

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). 

“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with ever fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”                                                           -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

“This is God’s universe and He does things his way. Now, you may have a better way of doing things, but you don’t have a universe.”             – J. Vernon McGee


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