"Quite Openly," Rev. Fred Kinsey
They said it quite openly – all over the internet. Be there, January 6th in Washington D.C. It’s going to be wild! The Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, Jericho Wall, Q-Anon, and numerous state militia groups. They weren’t shy! The FBI had been following them, and the press reporting on them. It was said quite openly ahead of time. It was a lot like the white supremacist Militia that tried to lynch Michigan’s Governor, quite openly, back in October. In fact, the FBI had been tracking domestic terrorism on social media since the beginning of the year, in 2020, and noting its rise. It was all done quite openly, and was not a secret.
They brought zip-ties, (plastic handcuffs), and dressed in military gear. But, they were surprised when they couldn’t find any of the Representatives or Senators in the Capitol, who had started to certify the votes of the Electoral College, just before they arrived. Little did they know how close they were to apprehending their targets, as they wandered the halls. Stop the Steal, had been the cry, and someone set-up a noose on a platform, like a good-olde lynching, still, not yet, illegal, in the U.S. Two bombs were planted nearby.
Back in the summertime, police were deployed in overwhelming numbers, dressed in riot gear, backed up by tanks, just to protect the Lincoln Memorial from peaceful BLM protestors – Protestors who demanded change and reform from within the system.
The domestic terrorist groups that the FBI were tracking all year were advocating overthrowing our government, quite openly. Not asking for justice-for-all, but threatening a successionist take over. But even when they arrived in large numbers, even when the U.S. President fired them up and clarified their target, even then – because they looked like the authorities, no one seemed alarmed – Ironically, though they saw them coming, they couldn’t imagine there would be trouble. When the window-smashing, bear-spraying Insurrectionists breached the Capitol, some Guards were talking casually, with those who had just broken the law. Others were seen gently escorting such rioters out, hands full of Congressional papers and property. Can you imagine if that was BLM!
What’s wrong with this picture?
It’s a picture Jesus would have been familiar with, and indeed was, in our Gospel reading today. 31“Jesus began to teach [his disciples] 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. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”
Jesus had been teaching his disciples, all along the road on their journey across Galilee, until this point. Anybody who was following, would have had a pretty good idea what he was talking about. But, to be fair, this is the first time he says it in those words, quite so openly.
This was right after Jesus had polled his disciples, asking, who do you say that I am? And Peter answered, you are the Messiah, which set off a heated discussion, a truly apocalyptic struggle, between Jesus and Peter. Jesus – though he was the Messiah – asked his disciples to keep it a secret, “sternly ordering them not to tell anyone about him.” Jesus, of course, had already attracted the attention of the authorities, for his ministry of preaching and healing, and announcing the kingdom, and had been threatened once, early on, with a kind of lynching, a death threat by the most popular party in the country (Pharisees; Mk. 3:6).
That’s when Jesus describes to them the new kind of Messiah he is, just to his disciples for now, ‘on the way,’ at this mid-point in his ministry. And Jesus uses the same title the prophet Daniel had, calling himself the Human One, and predicts this means he must suffer and die, to expose the truth about this world. This is not the triumphalist return, of political king-making, ala King David, everyone envisioned – Peter included – but rather, a divine inversion of the corrupt human-made kingdoms of this world, a transformation into God’s kingdom and realm, creating truth and love in every heart and institution. This is what Jesus said, ‘quite openly’ to the disciples. The opposite of a wild takeover, it was a subversion of violence, that would enable the justice of God to shine its light on earth, as it is in heaven.
But Peter rebukes him, when he hears that Jesus must suffer and die. Peter was on the side of, a triumphal Messiah, like David, as most everyone was. Why not heal, teach, AND attack and overthrow their Roman oppressors?
But Jesus quickly pulls Peter aside and rebukes him! “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Rene Girard, explains well how Peter is a threat to Jesus, and his mission as God’s Son, the Messiah, and how we are and can be, as humans, at least to the extent that we are part of the worldly powers:
Peter is a good example [says Girard]. When Jesus first announces that he will suffer at the hands of the people, Peter is scandalized. His ideal is the same as ours, worldly success, and he tries to instill it into his master. He turns his own desire into a model that Jesus should imitate. This is how Satan operates, of course. Hence the famous words: “Move behind me Satan, because you are a scandal to me.” If the scandalized disciple had succeeded in [mimetically] transmitting his own [mimetic] desire to his master, he would have scandalized Jesus straight out of his divine mission.
So, having retaken his authority back, from Peter, Jesus then calls the crowds, along with his disciples, to teach them all about being part of his movement, and becoming a follower. Just as I must take up my own cross, you must take up your cross… ‘for what will it profit you to gain the whole world and forfeit your life? Indeed, what can you give in return for your life?’
In being candid, and quite open about what kind of Messiah Jesus was, he risked losing his following. He came quite close that day in Caesrea Phillipi with Peter and the disciples. It was a spiritual battle, and for Jesus, as the Messiah, there could be no compromising with the powers of evil, and ruler of this world. It was the battle he was waging throughout his ministry, and for which, to win the war, he came to give his life for.
One of his sharpest weapons in such battles, was his Word. His Word was truth, but as we saw, it created scandal in those who were possessed by their own human desires for power and control. And so, Jesus didn’t start in Jerusalem with his spiritual opponents directly, but started in Galilee, where he could gather followers and believers, first. Speaking the truth, the Word of God, out in the open, will attract some evil stuff! Jesus knew that. And that’s what we see in this passage, mid-way in Mark’s gospel. Even his closest most passionate disciple, Peter, almost turned against him, when Jesus said quite openly, that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected, and be killed.
When BLM led protests over the murder of George Floyd last summer, this time they weren’t quite as alone or so easily exploited. Lots of white folks joined in, exceeding even the scale of the 60’s civil rights movement. Quite openly, America was saying enough, they could see the truth of racism, and they were now going to be part of telling the truth and not backing down. They were, many of them for the first time, going to rebuke the powers aligned against them.
Q-Anon, Proud Boys, Militias, etc. are organizing from un-truth, from wild conspiracies. But their backlash, their reasons for Insurrection, are real. They are opposed to the now, open truth, that white supremacy must be rebuked and made to stand down. They will try to cloak it, in any, and every kind, of wild conspiracy and half-truth. But they are reacting to, the spiritual truth, which is now quite open, that we are moving toward a new creation, a multi-racial society, marked by the fact that, people of color are becoming the majority, and the Caste system that has ruled since 1619, is slowly, but surely, being exposed and renounced.
As Christians we have a stake in this spiritual battle. We have no doubt that the war will be won, by Christ, who has risen from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father. But Jesus calls us to live as if the realm of God is already here. We have fought and lost many battles, back and forth, since Jesus spoke quite openly about who he was. And the backlash to the truth is enormous. But we know God sees no division, black, white, and brown, in this created order. And despite the danger, Jesus, God’s chosen Child, spoke and worked openly on our behalf to include the meek and humble, the poor and outcast – to level the playing field, bringing down the mighty and lifting up the down-trodden.
Every day, as followers of Jesus, we are in a battle with the powers of this world, that come disguised, often looking just like us. This moment in time, in our history as a country, seems closer to winning, or losing, something important, more than ever. At stake, at the heart of the matter, is the battle for the truth. That God, in the life and death of Christ Jesus, is the only realm, that can pull us forward, toward justice and love.
And so, we know that, in the kingdom and realm of God, there is no room for white supremacy. Jesus was willing to suffer and die, to get this truth out. He said it quite openly. And after three days, he rose again – where he sits at the right hand of God, now, and forever.