3rd Sunday after the Epiphany - "Clear and Present Danger"
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. In the name of Jesus.
There’s a test that originated in a 1919 Legal Case that has to do with things you say and freedom of speech.
It’s called the Clear and Present Danger rule.
What it means is that: no one has a right to say something that would cause a clear (= obvious) and present (= immediate) danger to other people.
As an example: the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment does not allow a person to shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre.
All in all, the printed or spoken word may not be the subject of restraint or punishment unless it expresses a clear and present danger of bringing about a substantial evil.
Now, in today’s Gospel, there was no United States
The Clear and Present Danger test wasn’t ascribed to any 1st century legal format
But there does appear to be a type of clear and present danger in the Epiphany before us today
The Confession of Peter, that Jesus is the Christ.
Jesus wants to know who do people say Me to be? There’s talk about it going around town.
Some say John the Baptist
Others say Elijah
And others one of the prophets.
But turning to His disciples Jesus asks: But who do you say that I am?
Peter answered: You are the Christ.
There seems to be something wrong with that confession because Jesus strictly charged them, in the sense that by saying that, something bad could happen, something could go wrong.
Here in Mark, Jesus warns them not to tell anyone about Him.
Jesus point in pressing that question upon them is to get the disciples to recognize His identity; to acclaim Him as the Messiah
That what these epiphanies are all about: revealing who Jesus is.
Then what happens is He begins to teach them that He must suffer, be rejected and killed.
The ironic thing is that the disciples would prove unable to accept such suffering.
So Jesus predicts His passion a second time in Mark chapter 9
And then a third time in chapter 10
So that there end up being three predications, one for each of Peter’s denials in chapter 14.
Even here, after Peter confesses Him to be the Christ, he’ll take Jesus aside and chide Him.
But look at verse 32 right before that.
It says that Jesus said these things plainly. Clearly.
Clearly Peter is seeing that Jesus is speaking a clear and present danger upon Himself.
As Jesus charged them to be silent about Him being the Christ
Peter is now the one wanting to silence Jesus about being the Suffering Servant type of Christ.
Like most Jews of his day, Peter expects a powerful warrior and conquering Messiah.
So now Jesus rebukes Peter
And worse calls him Satan.
At that moment, Peter is no longer a disciple.
Because first off, disciples never go or walk in front of their Rabbi
That’s why Jesus says, “get behind me.”
Jesus here is actually correcting all 12 of them since no one can accept the necessity of His sacrificial death.
And when anyone refuses to accept God’s plan of having Jesus die for the sins of the whole world, he or she is being devilish.
Because that’s Satan’s demise: to try and undo the divine plan of salvation.
The divine plan is the things of God
Anything opposed to that is the things of man.
And as always then Jesus goes on to teach about discipleship and the cost of being a disciple.
But do you see how this is a clear and present danger?
The naysayers are out to kill Jesus
So now is not the time to mention to them that He is the Christ
That’s how they eventually got Him, charged Him on account of blasphemy
And that blasphemy would be a clear and present danger to the Nation.
Can you blame Peter though?
Clearly it presents danger what Jesus had predicted about Himself? Even to them, since they were His followers
It threatened their very existence.
You can not say “I’m going to be killed.” It presents a substantial case of evil intent
That surely the courts must uphold the clear and present danger rule.
Yet our eyes are ever so dull to the promises of Christ.
Yes, there is a promise taking place here
It is the promise of the cross.
The anyone who comes after Jesus must take up their cross is a promise for it comes with a promise:
Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
There’s also the negative promise:
Whoever would save his life will loose it.
Those are promises; good and bad, bad and good.
Peter will get redemption.
Albeit isn’t until after the resurrection, when then Peter accepts a suffering Christ
Because Both in Acts where you heard from today
And in His letters, 1st and 2nd Peter
Peter gets the promises
He says: “It is through this knowledge of Him that we are called to His own glory and excellence (the glory and excellence of the cross)
“By which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises
So that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.
What are the implications for the Christian’s clear and present dangers for being a follower of Christ?
You will be persecuted; you will be contradicted.
Christians must follow Jesus through suffering and death and into resurrection.
And that turns the world upside down.
It is hate speech now a days to give up your life for the Gospel rather than save it.
Clearly you are presenting to the world a substantial evil.
But should I expect the church’s life to be one of continual peace and harmony?
No, not in this life. I can expect the Church in the present age to be locked in a continual struggle with Satan as he lashes out desperately against Christ’s people.
But in the end, you can expect the Church to celebrate the final victory over Satan and the forces of darkness when Christ returns.
And as Peter and John spoke this boldly to the rulers of the people
They were astonished, for it says “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Do people recognize that you have been with Jesus? It unravels the clear and present danger Because as we are soon to confess the “I believe” three times
You are redeemed just like Peter
Now fully behind Him and everything He has said and done.
That is what it means to take up your cross.
You each have one.
It may not be wood or T shaped
But you know what it is. I don’t even need to know it or speak it
The Holy Spirit shows you what it is.
And that is our confession
What will happen to me with my cross is that I will enjoy being with Christ in His new creation, in body and soul forever
The mystery of the clear and present danger is that
“for in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And Peter, even for us today, writes at the end of the reading:
He wanted to make every effort that after his departure
You may be able at any time to recall these things.
And on this side of the resurrection, because the clear and present danger to you is over
You need not be silent about Jesus being the Christ.
He is clearly and presently
The Christ for you
With His cross you can endure yours
And with His passion you can be passionate
He is changing you into the divine image
Has given you this divine promise
Now may grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge, revelation, epiphany of God and of Jesus our Lord.
To Him who is clear and present with you
This time forth and forever more.
In the name of Jesus + Amen.