Looking at the scene presented to us in the Gospel lesson, we perceive a picture of how things are NOT done in 21st Century America.
- Jesus speaks negatively of his future.
- Jesus refuses to receive constructive criticism from one of his closest associates.
- Jesus lays out a vision for future generations that may be attracted to his message and action that is decidedly dystopian.
- Leaders are supposed to be positive, inspiring, casting a vision that shows they are on top.
- Leaders are supposed to receive constructive criticism, especially from those closest to them, and amend their ways.
- The vision cast ought to inspire all of us to strive toward excellence and success and happiness.
Well, judging from Peter’s strong reaction, maybe that’s the way it supposed to be in first Century Israel too. Peter did not receive gently the news that the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, and on the third day be raised.
A premature end of the story is NOT what is supposed to happen.
I suspect that Peter represents most of us who do not welcome bad news. Peter also represents us when it becomes clear that Jesus’ entire ministry of teaching and healing has worked up to this point, and Peter missed it. Peter saw and heard what he wanted to see and hear.
Jesus is God Incarnate. Jesus is teaching and showing that God’s ways are not necessarily humanity’s ways. Jesus is teaching what God values. Jesus is bearing the Truth. We will learn soon enough that his suffering, death, and resurrection is the essence of our hope and salvation.
I said a moment ago that Jesus had been building up to this conversation with the disciples. It begins with the first sermon in Matthew.
Jesus bears witness to what he, the Father, and the Holy Spirit value.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven….”
These are what is often called “kingdom values.” This is not, by and large, what the world values, nor are these recipes for success.
Jesus speaks Truth to us. He is prophetic in the sense that he speaks in God’s voice. His Truth bearing will soon go further than words. He will show God’s character and priorities by His actions.
Jesus will demonstrate the heart and compassion of God by His passion, death, and resurrection. The events in Jerusalem will show that God is love.
In Love God created the world.
In Love God established the covenant
In Love God provided the Torah
In Love God becomes Incarnate and takes up the cross.
We, who have been touched by God’s love and claimed as God’s own, are called to bear witness to God’s redemption of the world through Christ’s cross and resurrection.
Sadly, the truth often is not welcomed gladly. In many times in the last 2000 years, the people of God are given a choice: God or the world; God’s values or humanity’s. We have to decide which is more important. By what will we organize our life?
Jesus says that if you treasure the values of humanity over the values of the kingdom, you may save your life, but you will ultimately lose it.
In grace, our heavenly Father forgives our sins; through Jesus we have hope that will not die; through the Spirit we have faith; faith that Christ conquers the ancient foes of sin, death, and the devil. We pledge our lives to Christ and nothing else. AMEN.