I’m sure many of you know Elon Musk does not advertise Tesla, but his cars are selling like hotcakes. He believes if he makes good cars, word of mouth will spread the news. All he does is “show and tell.” He shows people what his vehicles can do and how they can save the environment, and people see them and buy them. Then the satisfied customers go on to show and tell others about their cars.
Musk says he does not like advertising because it requires you to trick people into buying the product. All major car companies spend a great deal of money on advertising. You see car commercials all the time, don’t you? Recently, GM spent five billion dollars on advertising. That’s about 50% of their annual profit.
However, Elon Musk says he would rather spend that money on making his cars better and more affordable. He is well known for reasoning from the first principles. In terms of promotion, the first principle is “the product will promote itself if it is good.”
This Tesla tale somehow explains what we read in the Bible that Jesus did not advertise himself. Repeatedly he told people not to tell others about his divine identity or about the miracles they saw. Yet, his reputation spread like wildfire, even to foreign territories.
Jesus never told people that he is the Messiah, but he showed people that he is, by his divine deeds. In terms of “show and tell,” he did more showing than telling and let people come up with the conclusion. The best way to convert people is to let them raise their own hands out of their own convictions.
Today, let’s explore his divine identity and how he taught his followers to have the divine mindset over the human mindset based on this week’s scripture lesson.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Mark 8:27-38. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them 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. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:27-38).
[This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God.]
In this story, Jesus was giving his disciples a mid-term exam. They had been with Jesus for a while now, and he has taken them not only around Judea but also the neighboring gentile regions. The exam was very simple. They had to answer only two questions. The first question is,
“Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (v. 27b-28).
Looking at this passage, it seems many people believed in resurrection in those days, even though the Sadducees did not. Even King Herod believed Jesus was John the Baptist he murdered. To says that he was Elijah is significant because the scripture says that he would return before the Messiah came.
Most people believed at least he was one of the prophets. That means his reputation at that time was more than just an itinerant rabbi. Jesus might also be gauging the outcome of his shows and tells. After all the miracles he performed and the amazing words of wisdom he taught, he wanted to know how effective his non-advertisement organic promotion was.
What if he asked you the same question, “What do people say that I am?” Today, some people think he was a great philosopher, a sage, a prophet, or a revolutionist. Some people say he was the Maitreya (or Arimittaya) Buddha because he fits the profile.
Many of you would say that he is the Son of God that you’ve learned from Sunday School. But none of these matters because that is about what other people say about him. Now, Jesus has the second and more important question.
He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” (v. 29).
Peter was the leader of the group, and his answer generally represented that of the cohort. He had the right answer. They all should have the right answer since they had followed him for so long, seen all his shows and tells closeup, and received behind-the-stage private teachings.
Again, how would you answer this question if he asked you, “Who do you say that I am?” It’s a very personal question. It doesn’t matter what your parents have told you or what your teachers have taught you about who Jesus is. What is your answer based on your personal observation?
Of course, today, the answer is written in the Book. So, it is like an open book exam, and we all know the right answer. He is the Messiah, the anointed One. The question is, do we know what it means to say that he is the Messiah?
Even though Jesus never told people that he was the Messiah, he never denied it. Again, he told people not to advertise his divinity.
And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (v. 30).
The sternness of his order is intriguing. He was talking to his inner circle, so this order was serious; it’s not a reversed marketing psychology. The main reason is most people had the wrong concept of the Messiah in those days. They thought the Messiah was anointed to be a military warrior who would overturn the Roman occupation and restore Israel to an independent nation.
From the occupiers’ perspective, the Messiah sounded the leader of the rebellion against the Roman Empire. So, if they told people about Jesus being the Messiah, the Roman government would arrest him immediately. Furthermore, some religious leaders wanted to frame him as a rebel to get him killed.
So, until people understand what the Messiah really came to do, his identity must be kept from the public, or at least from the authorities. Now, Jesus taught them what the Messiah would do contrary to the common belief.
“Then he began to teach them 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.” He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (v. 31-32)
“The Son of Man” is the code word the Messiah used to address himself. So, even though Jesus never told people that he was the Messiah, he frequently used the code word to identify himself.
However, contrary to what people thought, Jesus said he would suffer and be killed. That was inconceivable for those who followed him, thinking that he would liberate the nation. Their hope for freedom and a brighter future exploded if that is true.
So, Peter took him aside and rebuked him. The Bible did not record the detail of Peter’s rebuke, but we could figure out based on Jesus response.
But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (v. 33).
Jesus said, “Get behind me.” It means Peter was getting ahead of Jesus. Sometimes, we do that. We want to instruct God what God should do, rather than following him humbly. It’s very hard to do, especially when God is doing something totally opposite of our expectations.
Peter was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, but he wanted the Messiah to do what he wanted him to do. Peter must be saying, “Form an army, buy the arms, and liberate the country!” Jesus was saying, “Don’t tell me how to liberate the country. You are thinking human way, but I am thinking God’s way.”
That makes me think about Afghanistan today. After thousands of lives, trillions of dollars spent over twenty years, it came down to square one. We have many examples like this throughout history. You can’t liberate a country until you liberate the minds of the people.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once said,
“Our mission is not to change the government, but our mission is to prepare the people. When people are ready, the government cannot stay the way it is.” ~Norman Vincent Peale
Isn’t it true? Afghanistan and many other countries in history have proven that we cannot impose a new government until the people’s mindset is renewed. We always have the government we deserve. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the reality.
Jesus said Peter was setting his mind not on divine things but on human things. Divine things mean divine will. The human will is to change the government because it’s the quick fix, but the divine will is to change people’s hearts. It’s a slow and sure process, but most people don’t have the patience for it.
Jesus is the living example of doing the divine will. He said everything he did or said was not of his own but God. It was against his own will to suffer on the cross. He asked God to remove that bitter cup of suffering in his eleventh-hour prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene, but only if it was God’s will.
How did he know it was God’s will? He knew it because it was revealed in the scriptures through the Prophets. So, if you want to know God’s will, it’s easy; just read the scriptures. As you read frequently, you will develop the divine mindset.
Jesus called Peter Satan. The word Santan came from the Hebrew verb SaaTaan, meaning to oppose, entice, or adversarial. As a student of the scriptures, Peter knew the prophesies, but he wanted Jesus not to do it. It was enticing to escape the suffering. So, Jesus called him Satan because he was opposing God’s will instead of following it.
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (v. 34-35).
To follow the Messiah requires the denial of self, meaning we have to crucify our egos. Otherwise, we can’t maintain the divine mindset. It is in losing our ego that we really live. Jesus then says,
“For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?” (v. 36-37).
In this context, Jesus is using life as a metaphor for the higher level of consciousness. If a caterpillar has all the food it wants but fails to become a butterfly, it’s equivalent to never living. Then he said,
“Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (v. 38).
From this, we can figure out that Peter must have said something to show that he was ashamed of Jesus, maybe because Jesus’ upcoming suffering and death sound like a failure rather than a victory. He couldn’t wap his mind over it.
Having the divine mindset sounds great, but sometimes the divine way can appear crazy, farfetched, and embarrassing from the human perspective. When the divine mindset conflicts with the human mindset, we might feel ashamed to accept it unless we crucify our ego.
Jesus said if we are ashamed of him, he would be ashamed of us when he returns. It doesn’t mean he would retaliate, but if we put it in the context of his entire teaching, he would be ashamed of us because we make him look like he had failed his mission to liberate us from our egos.
When Jesus called the disciples, he said, “Follow me.” In this passage, he said, “Get behind me.” When Mother Mary asked Jesus to do something about running out of wine at the wedding, she told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The secret to the divine mindset is this, “Do whatever he tells you,” just as he did whatever God tells him. C.S. Lewis said,
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” ~C. S. Lewis
As I said above, Jesus didn’t advertise himself. He came on earth without fanfare. He has proven that he is the real deal through “shows and tells” and through the testimonies of satisfied customers. If you are convinced he is divine, you have no choice but to trust and follow him by living with the divine mindset.
That means as Mary said, “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s not easy, but it’s worth it because the difference is like a caterpillar and butterfly. It’s the same creature, but two significantly different lives. Which would you rather have?
Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness. Amen!