Pentecost 14, 2023

What a difference a week makes, or how about a few verses. This past week we heard Peter make his confession of faith. Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. We all join him in that confession every week and experience the same pleasure of Christ which he enjoyed. But this week, just a few verses after his confession, things have gone terribly awry. Jesus reveals the divine plan. He is heading to Jerusalem, to be betrayed into the hands of men. He will be arrested, tried, crucified, and killed.

Peter, as you well know, has a different vision for how things should play out. He is still beholden to a theology of glory in which self-respecting messiah’s don’t get themselves killed. Peter’s vision for messianic leadership involves inspiring speeches, shouting armies, the wrath of God poured out on Israel’s enemies. But Jesus’ words harsh, just as harsh as his praise of Peter had been effusive. “Get behind me, Satan!” The same Peter who a few moments before had confessed the truth about Christ was terribly wrong about what Jesus status meant. In Jesus’ words, he had in mind the things of men and not those of God.

How often is that not the case for us? How does it manifest in our own parishes, in my ministry and yours? How does it show up in the way we pray? Do we ask God to take away suffering or do we ask God to transform us into the instruments of grace through suffering, loss, and even death? On the communion rail of my church are plaques representing each of the disciples who were there the night in which Jesus was betrayed. Peter of course is represented with keys and a cross. He too would be crucified. Most of the other disciples are represented with some indication of their means of martyrdom. There are knives and spears. But one, the plaque on the far right side, almost out of sight is blank. It is Judas plaque. He was there too. He also dipped his hand into the dish with Jesus. The kingdom, the upper room in which we sit in the closest communion with Christ, like the Garden of long ago, is not without its satanic presence. Jesus points it out for us even in Peter this week. It is a disturbing message which challenges our self-perceptions. Preachers do well to pray hard this week.

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