What’s the scuttlebutt?

In Lent 24 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, ‘John the3 Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets.’ Jesus said to them, ‘But who do YOU say that I am? Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’ Jesus sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone.”

Luke 9:18-27

Ocean-going ships used to have a cask of fresh water on the deck of the ship where sailors would go to get a thirst-quenching drink. That cask was called the scuttlebutt. As the scuttlebutt evolved, it modernized and even changed its name to simply “water cooler.” But the scuttlebutt was associated with gatherings of people to get a drink of water and also to exchange the news of the day.

So when a person asks “what’s the scuttlebutt,” they are really asking about the news of gossip of the day. Scuttlebutt.

Luke tells about an occasion when Jesus was praying alone, with the apostles nearby. After prayer Jesus asked them, “What’s the scuttlebutt”? Well, not exactly that, but close. “Who do men say that I am?” Jesus wanted to know what the apostles were hearing around the water cooler. This opened up an interesting conversation about who people in general thought Jesus might really be.

The disciples told Jesus that some folks thought he was John the Baptist, who had just been beheaded by King Herod. Others thought, understandably, that he was Elijah, the fiery prophet. And others just thought he must be some other prophet who had come back from the dead. Jesus’ demeanor, message, and miracles reminded them of what they knew other prophet/teachers did.

Peter, famous for this statement of identity, replied to Jesus, “the Messiah of God.” “Good answer,” we want to say. But Jesus says otherwise. “Don’t you dare tell anyone this.” Come again, we say. Why would Jesus want to keep that profound affirmation under wraps?

The answer was that Peter’s version of Messiah was a distortion of the Messiah Jesus actually was. Jesus did not want people to follow him because of some misguided understanding of what he came to do. Jesus knew that no one would fully understand him until after he was crucified and resurrected from the grave. Only then would they know what messiah meant for them.

Something to think about: How would you summarize the mission of Messiah? What does that mean for you? What would you say is the prevailing view in society of who Jesus is and what he came to do?

Something to pray about: Jesus, there are so many distortions of who you are and what you came to do. Some think you have political aspirations, others that you are “baby Jesus” to whom they call when they have special requests, and others that you came to placate God the father. How easily deceived we are is evident in the apostles’ early confusion about you. Please help us to grasp the single goal of your mission – to conquer sin and death. And help us to give our lives in cooperation with yours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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