“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
When we’ve had enough of ourselves, in whatever form it takes, we start looking around for a messiah. And when we do, they usually come in one of three pre-conceived forms: revolutionary, moral reformer or revivalist.
The revolutionary gathers up all our grudges and grievances and pummels our enemies with them, for some enemy or another is the problem. He\she leads the army of the righteously disgruntled in storming the battlements of injustice, in order that our particular form of justice may be violently forced on others. Many wanted, and still want, Jesus the revolutionary.
The moral reformer rails against the vices and corruption of the age. Society and it’s institutions are falling apart because people – other people – are misbehaving. The corrective to society’s ills may be found in the moral realignment of society and it’s values. The moral reformer wants to see moral/ethical revision extend from the board room to the bedroom. Many wanted, and still want, Jesus the moral reformer.
The revivalist sees the dilemmas of both church and state deriving from the lackluster faith of backsliding believers and stodgy religion. The world is a mess because we do not have enough energetic, sincere faith to make it otherwise. The revivalist summons us from religion set on simmer to religion turned up to a full boil. When we are serious enough about God, things will change. Many wanted, and still want, Jesus the revivalist.
There may be a place for all three of these concerns as sinners struggle to tidy up the messy world we have made for ourselves. In fact, turn on your television any day of the week and you’ll find these salvation stories being given back to you in any manner of law and order programming. But to equate one, or all three, of these with the Messiahship of Jesus is to miss the mark by a mile. Tidying up the world may make us feel more secure and better about ourselves but it will save no one.
When Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, it was some combination of these three salvation motifs he had in mind. You probably do too. But when Jesus began to explain that the Messiah would be handed over, suffer and be killed, Peter raised a furious objection. It was then that Jesus called Peter ‘Satan’ and told him to knock it off.
Now, perhaps, we can see why Jesus told His disciples to not spread the word that he was the Messiah. For he knew that the word would aggravate the misunderstandings already in place. Then, as now, people would hear the title Messiah, Christ, as revolutionary, moral reformer or revivalist. These, in fact, are the programs of many Christian congregations.
The meaning of the title’ Messiah’, ‘Christ’ does not come from human projections of what we think needs redemption. Jesus was telling His disciples that it was, in fact, at the hands of the revolutionaries, moral reformers and revivalists that he would suffer and die.
The god of the revolutionary, moral reformer or revivalist is simply inadequate to deal with the enormity of the evil we inflict on each other. To call upon these gods in the name of salvation is like putting band aids on terminal cancer. Forget it.
The title Messiah, Christ, may rightly be given to Jesus because through His way of innocence, vulnerability, suffering and death He took upon Himself our justifications, defenses and prejudices – our devilish programs of salvation. God refused to be a party to our programs of revolution, reform or revival. He came, and still comes, in the way of mercy and grace, consigning all our works and all our ways to death on the cross in order that He might have mercy on us all.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”