There is a story about Jesus and his followers in the Gospel of Mark that goes something like this:
Jesus and the guys were outside of a pagan (non-believing) city. Jesus asked his buddies who people thought he was. They told him that some people thought he was a prophet. Others thought he was a great teacher come back from the dead. Jesus followed this question up with a more poignant question: “Who do you think I am.” Jesus’ close friend, Peter, spoke up: “I think you’re the one who is going to reveal God’s presence on earth to everyone. When I look at you, I see God!”
Jesus said, “You’re right Peter. Now don’t tell anyone.” [paraphrase of Mark 8:27-30]
Don’t tell anyone.
Why? Why wouldn’t Jesus want them spreading the news far wide? “Look at this guy! He’s showing us God’s presence right here and now!”
How has God been revealed to you? When you think of what the Divine looks like, how God acts, what the nature of God is… what experiences come to mind that provided your impressions of God? Was there a sermon you once heard? Something your grandma said? A book by the Dalai Lama? A story in the news?
I remember sitting in a church service when I was around 10, bored out of my mind. As I sat, distracting myself from the ancient preacher’s sermon with thoughts of what God physically looked like, the preacher (in a rare moment of passion) yelled “God is love!” I thought about what it would mean to take that literally. Those three words revealed a lot to me about what the Divine nature is. (BTW, the ancient preacher was quoting 1 John 4.)
Have you had a similar moment of divine revelation? Have you had a moment of clarity about God?
In the Mark story, Jesus’ words to stay quiet fell anti-climatic. But there’s an implied warning: “stay quiet until you really get a sense of what God is like… because what you pre-supposed God is like doesn’t encapsulate the full picture.”
Actually, the full picture comes next, recorded in Mark 8:31, “Jesus taught that the he must endure many pains, be rejected by the teachers and religious leaders of the day, be killed, and rise again.”
That’s the full image. What does that reveal to you?