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What if we didn't know the story?

We last saw Peter in this mountaintop moment of faith when he made the bold and courageous declaration about Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Jesus affirms and commends Peter for his words, even handing him the keys of the kingdom.

And then, Jesus begins to talk about what Peter’s confession really means, the kind of Messiah that he is. Because, yes, Peter’s declaration was correct, Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God. But he will be arrested, and he will suffer, and ultimately, he will die at the hands of the religious leaders, but on the third day he will rise again.


It’s hard for us to imagine the effect such words must have had on the disciples. Thousands of years later the cross stands as a central symbol of our faith; we better understand Jesus’ mission and purpose on earth.


But what if we shook ourselves out of our familiarity for a few minutes and heard Jesus’ words as Peter, and the other eleven disciples, would have heard them more than two thousand years ago?


The disciples’ great hope, cultivated over the three years they had been following Jesus, was that he would lead them in a military revolution and overthrow the Roman oppressors. They had seen his miracles and witnessed firsthand his ability to draw adoring crowds. They had heard him proclaim aloud the arrival of a new kingdom. He was their longed-for-future.


And so, this talk of suffering and death was not only disorienting, but it was also ludicrous. The disciples had no framework by which they could understand Jesus’ words.


Perhaps we know the rest of the story. Peter, eager as ever, scolds Jesus for his prediction. 


It’s easy to distant ourselves from Peter in this moment because we would never be like that. We would never say such things to Jesus because we understand why his suffering and death was necessary, and after all, we have the hope of the resurrection.


And yet, I think if we’re honest, the temptation Peter presents is appealing. “You don’t have to do the hard thing. You don’t have to take this faith business so seriously. You don’t have to give up your own rights, privileges, and comforts. You don’t have to die.”


And Jesus, in what might be the sharpest and most surprising rebuke in all of Scripture, puts Peter in his place with one swift stroke: “Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 


Because yes, there is an easier way. But it is not Jesus’ way.


Grace and peace,


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