Psalm 57:7-11; Leviticus 26:1-35; Mark 8:22-38

Psalm 57:7-11  The last half of this psalm radiates peace and light–a stark contrast to the wiles and sword-like words of his enemies described in the first half.  The night has passed; it is a new morning and now there is only music: “Let me sing and hymn. Awake, O lyre, awake, O lute and lyre.” (8) Singing and playing of such grace and power that “I would waken the dawn.”  Surely one of the most beautiful phrases in the psalms.

As a person who is up before dawn every morning, this image resonates strongly for me in the realization that every new dawn is the beginning of the precious gift of a new day from our gracious God.  As the sun rises, our psalmist praises God, whose “kindness is great to the heavens, and to the skies Your steadfast truth.”  (10) In this evocative image that the psalmist paints in words and music, it is not the sun, but God’s kindness and truth that light the daytime sky.

For truly, each new day comes from the reality that God “Loom(s) over the heavens, Over all the earth Your glory.” (11).  In the midst of the evil that our psalmist has endured–and in the midst of so much evil in the world–God’s kindness and truth still light the sky each morning.

Leviticus 26:1-35  This great chapter is God’s summary of the Covenant he has established with His people; its terms and conditions, if you will.  It’s quite simple really: “If you go by My statutes and keep My commands and do them,” (3) numerous blessings will follow. rain, trees that yield fruit and fields that yield grain.   Grain that in turn becomes bread. (5)  If they “will lie down with none to cause terror, and I shall make evil beasts cease from the land , and no sword will pass through your land.” (6).  And they will win battles even when greatly outnumbered. (7) Above all, God will fulfill his promises if the people fulfill theirs: “I shall be God to you, and as for you,  you will be My people. (13)  God asks only one thing: obedience.

But in the face of Israel’s disobedience the converse is also true: “if you do not heed Me and do not do all these commands, and if you reject My statutes and if you loathe My laws, voiding My covenant, I on My part will do this to you:” (14)  And a long list of really bad things, including cannibalism, follows.  And what God will do is not just a straighforwrad quid pro quo of bad things, but “My part will chastise you sevenfold for your offenses.” (29)  This is God’s promise of a reversal of the Sabbath, “All the days of the desolation it shall keep a sabbath for not having kept your sabbath years when you dwelled there.” (35)

This is God’s deal.  Unfortunately, we know what Israel did.

Mark 8:22-38  In his healing of the blind man of Bethsaida, and then sending him “away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”” (26) we sense that Jesus feels his healing powers and growing popularity could result in a movement that too easily could become a revolution, which would certainly derail the divine plan.  So, too, when Peter acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah, “he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.” (30)  [Notice also, that unlike Matthew, Mark does not include any kind of other exchange between Jesus and Matthew about rocks and his Church.]

The reasons for silence and not fomenting a revolution become clear in Mark’s next passage. Jesus has a divine plan:  “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.” (31)  A story so crazy, so absurd that Peter takes him aside and “rebukes him.”  

Mark does not tell us what Peter said, so we can only speculate.  I’ve always thought it was Peter telling Jesus of his unfailing loyalty, and that Jesus could never contemplate dying.  That may be so, but I also think Peter may have tried to encourage Jesus to go ahead and foment that revolution.  He may have argued that given Jesus’ increasing popularity, now was the time to strike politically.  I can hear him saying, ‘Forget that business about dying and rising.  Let’s strike while the iron is hot.’  For me, that is what lies behind Jesus’ rebuke that “you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (33)

We are all Peter.  Because we always seem to want Jesus to do what we’ve outlined for him to do. But as humans, our minds are almost always set on human things.

Speak Your Mind