Lent 2.18 “Mindful” Mark 8:27-38
When Jesus and Yoda agree on something, I’ll confess—mmh, mmh, gets my attention, it does. You’re probably only influenced by Jesus, and good for you on that; and you probably are strong when temptation to slip into Yoda-voice comes calling (which, obviously, I’m not) so again, good for you. I wish I were more like that. Anyway, you probably noticed right away when the word came up in the Gospel and went: “Hey! Yoda says the same thing as Jesus on that. Huh…”
The word, our word for the day, but don’t scream real loud when I say it (thanks!) is “mindful”. Yoda, of course, is always telling Luke Skywalker to be mindful—of the Force mostly, but other stuff too. Luke has trouble with this, which causes lots of problems for the galaxy that’s far, far away and a long time ago. Peter has similar trouble, as we see this morning. Jesus asks the 12 who people say that He is. Notice, He doesn’t ask if people know who He is, because, honestly: everyone knows who He is the second they encounter Him. Knowledge is not the problem. Saying is the problem, saying the same as Jesus says, same as the Truth is—which interestingly, is exactly the Greek word we translate as “confess”. The Greek ομολογεω is literally “same-say”.
After the other disciples answer Jesus: that some say He is John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others one of the prophets, and as the disciples debate what the most popular answer probably is, Jesus waves it off and says, “But who do you say that I AM?” Peter leaps in without looking or thinking (as Luke Skywalker is also wont to do) shooting from the hip, confessing: “You are the Christ” which, of course, is bang on, and somewhat surprisingly, Peter is right on that. Jesus (oddly, to modern minds) strictly warns them that they should tell no one about Him! Odd to us, because the modern church is all about telling everyone what He has done, but Jesus… not so much. A talk for another time.
Jesus quickly moves from Who He is to what He does, because the two things are intricately connected and the “what”, for us, is as important as the “who”—though even tougher for us to say, as we will see. Jesus teaches them that the Christ, the Son of Man, must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and district presidents and be killed, and after three days, rise again. He spoke this openly. But Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, tells Him this is garbage talk, defeatist, and will never happen to Him. Peter and the others just won’t let it!
And Jesus blows Peter’s hair back, rebukes Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Yoda never gets that angry and excited, one difference between him and Jesus) but Jesus continues: “For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” And there’s that word, the place where Yoda and Jesus agree—being mindful turns out to be extremely important for disciples of Jesus and Jedi Knights alike. Interesting.
Of course, it’s a rather surface sort of agreement. Being mindful on its own doesn’t really get you anywhere. For instance: being mindful of the Cavs game streaming on your ESPN mobile app while you’re attending the kids’ middle school musical adaptation of “Cats” is not going to win you any points from anyone—Jesus, Yoda, or the lower school dean. It will not make you a hero; but it will get you looked at funny when you shout “Yes! Lebron!” as the sad, old lady cat sings her heartrending song near the end of the thing. Speaking for a friend on this.
Luke’s being mindful of the Force (George Lucas to the contrary) doesn’t really get him anywhere either, because as I’ve sadly had to point out to you before: the Force isn’t real and neither is Yoda or Jedi Knights. What? Plus, the Force really matches up better to Gnostic-Manichean heresies than to orthodox Christianity. What? Next you’ll tell me Jesus wasn’t an American! Uhm. Well. We’ll talk. Another time.
This is why Jesus so quickly ties the “who” to the “what” when He rebukes Peter for not being mindful. Who Jesus is: the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man—and what He does: suffering many things, being rejected by elders, chief priests, scribes, district presidents; dying, rising the third day, being with us always (even when we can’t see Him!) even till the end of the age (and beyond!) are two sides of the same coin. You can’t really be mindful of who Jesus is without minding what He does…
And this brings the problem of mindfulness home full Force (sorry, couldn’t help that!) for us. Lots and lots of people today are happy to say (with Peter!) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Son of Man. Lots of people are happy to say they are good with the creeds and confessions of the church catholic as Lutherans confess those too. But when it comes to the what of Jesus—then Christendom struggles today as badly (or worse!) as it ever has before. We hear it in the sermons so widely preached that being a Christian means sharing the good news with others (more than being mindful of it ourselves!)—that it means being well behaved, moral, upright, polite, good parents, good children, good workers. We hear this especially in the songs and dialogs that are so popular in “contemporary worship”: that Christianity is essentially a matter of the heart—ethics and outreach, principally.
But Jesus missed that memo—as our Gospel today clearly shows! He doesn’t quiz His disciples on how they’re behaving, if they’re spending enough time with the kids, telling enough other people about Him, keeping up on their stewardship, etc. Jesus’ quizzes are all Story problems. He asks who we say that He is. He tells us how His identity as Christ means suffering on a cross and when Peter rejects that narrative, Jesus rejects Peter as “Satan”—saying Peter’s problem is not with his heart or actions, but with his mind—he is not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men (and Jesus probably says this imitating Yoda’s voice 🙂
Paul says the same thing. In Colossians, Paul says the essence of being a Christian is simply this: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth—for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” By the way, Paul’s “set your mind” is the exact same Greek word φρονεω that Jesus uses here on Peter—made from two Greek words: προς, meaning “toward” and νους, meaning “mind”—so “mind-toward”. And here’s the real kicker: the Greek word wrongly translated as “repent” throughout the Bible is actually μετα meaning “change” and νους, again meaning “mind”. So “mind-change” is what the Gospel Jesus preaches actually calls for! Because where the mind is set on Christ, the heart, body, and soul must follow. God is in the details, which is why Timothy’s main job as pastor is reading and teaching that to the flock.
This new mindset is established (strangely!) for us by the worship of Jesus through the old liturgy—in which the Word and Sacraments set our minds on things above by grounding them firmly (paradoxically!) in the Body of the Crucified Lord Jesus which enters us through our ears and mouth in Divine Service. This mindset is renewed as often as you read the Scriptures by yourself or with your pastor and fellow Christians. Literally, eternal life hangs on this old Story! So stay mindful, my friends, of the things of Christ; and denying yourself, taking up the cross, losing all for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, the life that you save will be Peace, surpassing understanding, guarding heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.