Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Road is long

GospelMatthew 16:21-27 

Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
  Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?
  ‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’

To think I never used to like Peter - but I was younger then and more certain of what was right and wrong - I was probably a lot like Peter; that's often the way it works.

I often wonder why John was called the Beloved. Maybe John was just easy to love; being younger; more impressionable; more expressive; being willing to follow.

Peter finds it hard to follow. Peter is a man; the head of a family; a business man and the captain of a fishing boat. Probably of a similar age to Jesus; he is the one who would have the greater standing in the community. There would be many who would regard Peter as an elder, someone who you would go to for advice and guidance.

Surely, no-one with this sense of responsibility is going to stand by and listen to their friend plan their death. Peter has made some challenging changes to his life; he has stepped out of his own boat long ago to walk with this man; he stepped out of yet another boat to risk his life to this man and now he is being asked to leave another boat behind  - the boat that puts him in control of 'what should happen next'. 

  Last week, Peter recognised his friend as the Son of God - this week he thinks he can decide what God can do with him. 

The Hebrew meaning for satan is to oppose or obstruct. As human beings it is a struggle to live out God's plan rather than following the material and accountable stepping stones of the world. 

We have to imagine that not everything the world offers is wrong  - the world is, after all, full of God - but then we have to ask ourselves if sometimes we are tempted by ideas that do obstruct our following of the Way, especially when the way is dark and uncomfortable. 

Peter was never Satan, but the request he made - in love - was. 

Jesus is beginning to give voice to the path he was destined to take; each word uttered out loud making it more realistic, more true. And then to have his closest friend say  - No, you can't do this to me, You mean too much to me. You can't leave me -   must have been an even greater temptation than those on the mountaintop.

Control and obstruction hides itself in human love. It is so difficult to give those you love their own freedom. 'If you love someone you let them go' - no wonder that was written by 'Anonymous' - how hard it is to do. Even harder to release them to the mystery of God's Will - why Peter struggles with the need to suffer, why we still do today. 

 Jesus doesn't turn his back on Peter, only the temptation and the show of ego that tried to put Peter in charge of Jesus' life; to second-guess God. 

Which is why he says to all of them that they must renounce themselves -not who they are in God's eyes - but who they are in their own eyes and the eyes of the world. The cross is heavy enough without trying to balance ego and ambition - one or the other will topple - which is up to you. 




Barbara said...

I love your thoughts on Peter and the ego we all struggle with.

I think it was in Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral that I found the line about the greatest treason being to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Peter seems to be doing the wrong thing for what he considers to be the right reason.

Word in the Hand said...

It's a subtle trick we can all be guilty of. Thanks Barbara m+x