So Jesus is the Messiah. Period. Done. Pack it up and let’s get going. We have a military to organize.
If Jesus is the Messiah, that means Israel is about to regain its power. God is going to overthrow Rome and the Herodian dynasty in order to establish the throne of David once again in Jerusalem. No more oppression, no more slavery, no more Gentiles telling God’s people what to do.
This is it.
At least that’s what the disciples thought. That’s what everyone thought the Messiah was coming to do. He would be God’s anointed one to lead Israel’s armies into battle against their oppressors. He would be the one to become the great an final king of Israel whose throne would last forever. God’s shalom would finally come to fruition.
They were ready for war.
And they would get war, but not for another 30 years and definitely not with Jesus as their general.
And that war did not turn out so well for them.
Just when the disciples had finally caught on to who Jesus was (“You are the Christ”), he turns their whole understanding on end. They were right in calling him the Christ, the King, the Anointed One. Now he says that he’s going to be killed.
The Messiah, the deliverer, the King of all kings – had to die?
This did not compute.
The Messiah must suffer and be rejected by the chief priests and teachers of the law? The Anointed One must be killed and rise again on the third day? What?
Imagine you are just putting the finishing touches on a 20 page research paper, about to press save, when suddenly the computer freezes and displays the dreaded blue screen of death. All that work – just gone. It’s like a punch to the gut.
Now imagine the fate of your entire country – your spouse, your children, your friends – was in the hands of one man, and he tells you that he’s going to be killed. Enter Peter.
There’s got to be a better way. Jesus, you must be confused. Don’t say things like that. You’re only joking, right?
But Jesus says something striking:
“Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Ouch. When was the last time you called someone “Satan” and got away with it? But Jesus says that Peter doesn’t have in mind the things of God but the things of men. How often are we guilty of the same thing? We want Jesus on our own terms. We want God to act how we think he should. We think, like Peter and the Jews, that if God would just wipe out every evildoer and punish the wicked, everything would be great! Just swoop down with his army from heaven and be done with it.
But, like Yoda says, “Wars not make one great.” No war has ever made as much of an impact on the world as the sacrificial death of one man. Wars make history – they can’t change it. Wars will never redeem the world. Wars will never bring life – only death. Wars only breed hatred – not love.
So no, Peter, there will not be a war. There will only be sacrificial love and complete surrender to God. Wars do not make one great – only God can do that.