Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why Did Jesus Turn and Look at His Disciples?

In Mark 8:31, we learn that Jesus had explained plainly to His disciples regarding His Passion and resurrection. Upon hearing Him, Peter took our Lord aside and began to rebuke Him. Then Holy Scripture tells us, “But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter…” The NAB says, “At this, He turned around and, looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter…” The Douay-Rheims: “And, Peter taking Him, began to rebuke Him, Who turning about and seeing His disciples, threatened Peter…” Why did Jesus turn to look at His disciples?


When I hear that Peter took Jesus, I assume that Peter took Jesus out of the hearing of the others. If Peter had intended for the others to hear, why take Jesus aside? Then the question comes to mind: Did Jesus intend for the others to hear His rebuke of Peter? Another question: Why are these two verses even in here? They very well could have been omitted without interrupting the context. St. Luke omits this passage, while St. Matthew includes it. When Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him, Jesus could have immediately said to him, “Get behind me, Satan…” without turning around to look at His disciples.

I do not think Jesus intended for the other disciples to hear His rebuke of Peter at this time. For what purpose would He desire the others to hear? Did He desire to embarrass Peter, cut him down, humiliate the one He had just appointed leader of His Church? How would that have affected his subordinates? Therefore, why did Jesus turn and look at His disciples?

In order to attempt to ascertain an answer to the question, I turn my thoughts to Jesus, the Man. It was in His character to love His neighbor as Himself, to build him up, not tear him down. To aid me in my endeavor, I went to Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea—Gospel of Mark, where I read, “[Jesus] saith not to the devil when tempting Him, ‘Get thee behind me;’ but to Peter He saith, ‘Get thee behind me;’ that is, ‘Follow me and resist not the design of My voluntary Passion’.” When we look at back to when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness by Satan, He tells Satan to be gone, not to get behind Him. Therefore, I surmise that Jesus turned and looked at His disciples for the purpose that Peter would see Him and know that His rebuke was going to be for the sake of His disciples, including Peter himself—for the Church. In this way, the rebuke would teach Peter and build him up.

If Jesus had rebuked Peter in the hearing of the others, Peter would have been embarrassed, ridiculed. Since Peter rebuked Jesus in private, I think Jesus rebuked him in private. If Peter had rebuked Jesus in the hearing of the others, then it would have been necessary for Jesus’ rebuke to be public. Jesus is the perfect leader; He does what is just. Another reason I believe it was a private rebuke is: After rebuking Peter, Jesus called the multitude and His disciples to Himself. If the rebuke is in their hearing, it would have been unnecessary for Him to call them.

This brings us to the question of why the passage is necessary. Although Jesus rebuked Peter in private, it was His intent that, at the right time, Peter would bring the rebuke to light to strengthen the Church. I believe that this passage has the purpose of enhancing our trust in the fact that Jesus is truly the active Head of the Church, that He is leading her. It attests to the fact that He is watching over the Pope and the other bishops, including the members themselves. The fact that the Holy Spirit has Peter to confess this to his peers, including all of us, is evidence that God is making His people humble, that He is doing a work in all of us—if we submit. It is evidence that the Catholic Church is on the side of God, not men. If the Catholic Church was on the side of man, it would be attempting to please man and not admonishing him of his sins. This is not love. I hear that many Protestant denominations are more and more easing their restrictions to abortion. This is not loving his neighbor, but aiding his neighbor to stay out of the Kingdom of God. If the Catholic Church is on the side of God, not men, then its members are also on the side of God, not men. In Baptism, we are born again, “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” If God is our Father, then we must love His commandments, His will. Jesus tells us to get behind Him, pick up our crosses, and follow Him—in His Passion. We cannot do this without the help of the Church and its Mother.
--Tommy Turner