Jesus thinks the time has come to truly teach the disciples who it is he is. After quizzing them about who he isn’t–John the Baptist, Elijah, or another prophet–Peter seems to indicate that they know the Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus then gets on to the heavier lifting of teaching what being a Messiah entails. When they hear that there will be suffering, and death, and then he will rise again in three days, Peter, the very same Peter who recognized Jesus as his Messiah, rebukes him.
The disciples, or Peter at the very least, do not want a Messiah who has to suffer or die. This was not the Messiah they were picturing. During this time when Hebrews, and other nations were under the heel of an oppressive empire they pictured a heroic Messiah, a conquering Messiah, a militaristic Messiah, no doubt armed to the teeth weaponized and ready to fight and show the might of the nation. Instead, they get Jesus, humble, tradesman, child of podunk. Instead they get Jesus who continues to balk at the tradition, and questions authority, but does not quite call for an out and out rebellion. Instead they get Jesus, who fully admits that he is going to suffer, Jesus who says that the first will come last, Jesus who has come to serve, Jesus, the kind of Messiah that no one pictured.
When Jesus talks about suffering as a part of not just discipleship, but also Messiahood, it is too much for Peter to bear. That he should preach this openly, this kind of humility and radical understanding of what it takes to follow God, this kind of humility in the one we understand to be the Lord and Savior is just too much. It is here that Peter rebukes Jesus.
Jesus holds nothing back here. He rebukes Peter in return, and says that it is Satan that whispers that this suffering and death is not near me. “Get behind me Satan” is Jesus’s exact response.
Then he calls all the disciples together and urges them to “take up your cross and follow me.” Because this isn’t just about what Jesus Christ, the Messiah is willing to sacrifice in order to save us. It is also about what our response is to that sacrifice. Today, in an age of masks and vaccines and natural disasters, I hear Jesus’s words very sharply. I hear them as words of personal responsibility. Jesus did not die on the cross so that we can leave our responsibilities on the side of the road.
After all of this rebuking, is it any wonder that Jesus says, oh and by the way, the time has come. If you want to save the world, then I suggest you get your shit together and follow me. Because the only way we are going to get through this, is if we are all working together to pull our weight–because this taking care of creation thing, this being in the community thing, this discipleship thing, is a group project.
And that is good news, because I need to hear that we can all do our part in all of this. I need to hear that there are considerations beyond this world right now. I need to hear that God has already done the heavy cross lifting for us. It makes it easier to lift my own as I face the world today.
How about you, what passage is speaking to you this week today? Share with us where you are in the RCL texts.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny Presbyterian church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY since 2020 and blogs prayers & Narrative Lectionary at http://www.katyandtheword.com She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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