Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21 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. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 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.”
The Cross and Self-Denial
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 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?
27 “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. 28 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.”
While Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ is often absurd, there are moments when, whether by accident or design, they brilliantly communicate life in first century Palestine. One of the truths that they nail beautifully is the people of Israel’s search for the Messiah — the one who would deliver them from the power of Rome. They sought God’s anointed one with the intention of following him to victory.
Not only did they live in expectation of the coming of the Messiah, they lived in expectation of what he would do when he came. They expected to follow him to a military victory, to fall in behind him as he led their charge against the empire of Caesar and the corrupt stewardship of Herod.
‘Messiah’ is a word that lived in the hearts of the Jewish people, a thought that constantly came to mind and a prayer that would have often been on the tip of their tongues. In Matthew 16, Peter is the first to call Jesus the Messiah … though I doubt he was the first person to think it. The disciples and the others who followed Jesus would have hoped and prayed that he was the Messiah — they would have longed for it to be the case. ‘Messiah' was not a new concept to them but, rather, it was such a potent and crucial concept that it would be dangerous to speak out loud.
Emotionally dangerous because it is painful to hope and be disappointed.
Literally dangerous if a soldier of Caesar or Herod overheard you.
Peter declares, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!’
Jesus says that Peter is right and then goes on to explain what that will mean. He is going to go to Jerusalem where he be crucified but on the thir—
Suddenly, Jesus is interrupted! By Peter! Who tells Jesus that he is wrong!
Not only does Peter say that Jesus is wrong. He says, ‘God forbid!'
He literally prays that God would stop being God. That God would stop his son from doing what he came to do. There is no malice or selfishness on Peter’s part. He is just lost in his understanding of who Jesus is and what he came to do.
He knows the word ‘Messiah’ but, as I listen to him say it, I can’t help but respond like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride:
You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.
Much to our chagrin, ‘Messiah’ does not mean ‘the one that we will follow to earthly glory’.
The Messiah is not the one who will bring us comfort, wealth, superiority or power.
This Messiah invites us to decent rather than ascent. He invites us to serve rather than to be served.
He is the one who challenges us saying, ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?’
He invites us into his upside down Kingdom, the marks of which Paul describes so beautifully in this week’s reading from Romans 12:
Let your love be genuine.
Hate what is evil.
Love what is good.
Love one another with mutual affection
Outdo one another in showing honour.
Rejoice in hope.
Be patient in suffering.
Persevere in prayer.
Bless those who persecute you.
Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with people from all backgrounds, cultures and situations.
Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
I am tempted to cry out as Peter did — God forbid! — because that sounds hard. I would, in my darker moments, prefer a Messiah I could carve into an image I could control.
In my best moments, however, I realise that I could never carve a Messiah as who lives and loves in as beautiful a way as this.