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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, August 29, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Matthew 16:21–28

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (NRSV)

Peter. The rock who quickly becomes a stumbling block. The disciple who proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and then quickly decides to dictate to Jesus what that must mean. The only disciple Jesus calls “Satan,” indicating that Jesus heard the tempter’s voice through the words of Peter’s challenge to him. Peter says exactly what he thinks, as he thinks it. (No wonder I have always appreciated him!)

I understand why Peter says what he does. He cannot wrap his mind around the idea that Jesus, the one he is coming to know as Messiah, would ever allow himself to suffer and to die. That does not make sense to Peter! Why would the Messiah say yes to pain and suffering? Why would the Messiah not do everything within his power to fight against being put to death? What kind of a leader chooses a path of total vulnerability? Apparently Jesus does.

As theologian William Placher has written, in Jesus, our God chose to become weak in power in order to be strong in love. Our God chose to live the story of vulnerability, of creature, of humanity, and as that proclaimed truth of Jesus began to dawn on Peter, I am sure he found himself not just confused but scared. For if that is what Jesus would do—not hold anything back from being fully who he was—then what would Peter be asked to do? How could he follow such a leader? What kind of vulnerability would he have to embrace?

Gracious God, when I become scared about what it means to live fully as one of your disciples, give me courage. Remind me that I can never go where you have not already been. Remind me that nothing in my own experience is outside the reach of your holiness. And guide my steps on my way. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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