Not a right-handed God

Jesus’s disciples wanted him to fit their idea of a Messiah – the “anointed” or “chosen” one. The popular notion of a Messiah was that of someone who’d save Israel through the victory of force. This can be described as right-handed power. It’s an active power that uses physical strength and achieves clear results (namely the destruction of its enemies).  

But whenever Jesus is charged with being this kind of Messiah – this kind of right-handed savior – his reactions range from being quietly annoyed to all-out furious. He didn’t want this image of him to be spread. This “Messianic secret” is an overarching characteristic of the Gospel of Mark. We see it come to its crescendo with the interaction between Jesus and Peter. 

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. 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.”

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.

Mark 8:31-35 (NRSV) 

In this scene, he’s not only annoyed that Peter is trying to make him into a right-handed Messiah, he publicly rebukes him saying, “Get behind me, Satan!”  

Since we can’t see God, we Christians believe that God carries the characteristics of Christ. And in Mark’s Gospel, we see clearly that this God is not a right-handed, but a left-handed one. Through Jesus, God has made it clear how God achieves victory: through self-giving love, forgiveness, and life, not through vengeance, hatred, and death.