Sermon: In the Driver’s Seat March 17, 2019 Lent 2
Mark 8: 27 – 38 (Translation: The Message)
Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?” “Some say ‘John the Baptizer,'” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.'” He then asked, “And you–what are you saying about me? Who am I?” Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.” Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone.
He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it. But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? “If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendour of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”
Have you seen the cartoon with a man and a woman sitting in a car which is pulled over to the side of the road, and a policeman is standing at the open window staring at the man who’s behind the wheel. The policeman has his hands on his hips and he doesn’t look happy. The man in the car is pointing at the woman and he’s saying: “She’s the driver, I just do as I’m told!” Ah yes, getting directions from backseat drivers! That’s never happened to you, right?
And what about getting wrong directions? That’s never happened to you either, right? You’ve never been on a journey and been lost. Well, in case you ever have been lost, you know the feeling – you stop surprised, you’re puzzled, perplexed, you get anxious, alarm bells start to ring, realization sinks in – and you think, “Oh, oh, – wait a minute, where am I? Where am I going? Oh no, I’m lost – how do I get out of here?”
And you know, you can also feel this way when you do know your bearings, you’re on the right road, but for whatever reasons, you feel uncomfortable or uneasy with the events or circumstances or people in which you find yourself immersed, and you feel a little “lost.” You can feel perplexed and puzzled and alarmed and anxious then, too, and you can think – “Oh, oh, – wait a minute, I don’t like this. Which way do I go? How do I get out of here?”
This is what’s happening in our scripture reading this morning. Jesus has started to explain to his disciples what will happen to him in the near future. He, Jesus, has been travelling around the countryside with his disciples, preaching and healing people, but he is purposely on a journey, a mission, steadily heading towards Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus knows his destination and he has started to tell his disciples what’s going to happen to him, but they don’t understand, they get perplexed and puzzled and anxious and alarmed. They don’t want to hear these words coming from their Teacher, their Messiah whom they’ve recognized Jesus to be, and they don’t want to hear this devastating prediction of his suffering and his death. They don’t want Jesus to take this journey and they don’t want to be part of it. Peter starts to “rebuke” Jesus – the Greek word epitimao – meaning admonish, censure, or forbid. Peter protests! He doesn’t want to hear Jesus talking about his death. Peter is admonishing or forbidding Jesus to even talk about it.
And what is Jesus’ reaction? He rebukes or admonishes Peter for his words, and Jesus says to him: “Get behind me, Satan!” Wow – powerful words and a powerful reaction. Jesus is addressing the temptation, the tempter, behind the words he uses.
Last Sunday, we studied about temptation and the devil’s strategy to focus our attention on the temptation, not on God. When Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus isn’t calling Peter Satan – Jesus is addressing the temptation behind Peter’s words, the temptation at work, the tempter at work, and what is Satan the tempter trying to do? He wants to thwart Jesus from his mission. He wants to stop Jesus from going to the cross. He uses Peter’s love and devotion for Jesus to cry out in protest – No, Lord, don’t talk this way! Don’t talk about your death! We don’t want you to die – don’t talk this way! Peter doesn’t want Jesus to go to his death. But Jesus knows God’s plan and his part in it, to go to that cross and die for the sake of men and women to offer them new life and a new way to connect with God’s Spirit through him. So Jesus addresses the tempter – Satan – the evil spirit at work here trying to thwart or stop him, and Jesus says to this temptation: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” In our scripture reading from The Message, it is translated as Jesus saying “Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.” In other words, “You do not know God’s ways.” And Jesus goes on to say to all who are listening: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am!”
And this makes me think about those times in life when we get lost. We get perplexed and confused and worried and anxious, and we don’t know where we are and where we’re going. But God’s plan will only work if there is one person in charge: God. Jesus puts God in the driver’s seat for his journey, he follows God’s plans and God’s will, and Jesus wants us to put him, and God, in the driver’s seat of our lives.
And then, something profound takes place. Because when we do this in faith, we trust in God taking charge. Taking complete control of what happens to us and where we go. It is truly a very difficult thing to do, because we want to be in charge, we want to be in control, and handing over our life and our will to God? To let God take charge? Wow – are we willing? But when we truly “Let go, let God” as the saying goes, it puts the ownership on God to lead us and guide us and take us where God wants us to be.
And this puts an entirely different perspective on “getting lost.” If we truly let Jesus, let God, in the driver’s seat, and we are the passengers on our life’s journeys, if we truly give that leadership over, literally hand the wheel over, we are asking Jesus to direct where we’re going, where we’re headed, what directions we’re to take. If we truly it over, give this control to Jesus, then we live life in a completely different way, and we trust and obey Jesus in an entirely different way. It is a way of trust. Complete trust. And it is hard for us to do. But it is what Jesus wants us to do! He wants to be Lord of our life and in control of our life. He wants to take who we are, and all that we are, and all that makes up our identity and person, and he wants to be in charge. He wants to hear us say – “Lord Jesus, if you demand to be in the driver’s seat of my life, then I give you permission. I ask you to direct my life and lead me where you want me to be and where you want me to go.”
And even when the road gets rough, and the way may not be smooth, and we find difficulties, and we’re perplexed, puzzled, maybe anxious, and we think we’re lost, we can still pray: “Lord, I don’t know why I’m here and why you’ve brought me to this place, but I trust that you have a reason, and I will trust that you guide me and show me where to go and what to do.”
And in faith, in total faith, we trust that Jesus will do so. Because, he’s the driver. And he knows where he’s taking us.