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MT 16: 21-28
Sunday between August 28th & September 3rd...In 2005, August 28th...15th S.after Pentecost

A leader who announces Bad News to their followers isn't popular. Often don't last. What Jesus tells them here doesn't by any stretch of the imagination sound like the Good News we're always on about. Does it? No wonder Peter tackles him! Do we front God as much as we possibly should when things puzzle us overmuch, if not offend us, alienate us? Things like those Jesus reveals here, like misunderstanding, suffering, death...? If we don't tackle God on these issues, maybe we need to take a leaf out of Peter's book? Get  really serious about bad news / good news issues? About God? And risk becoming a 'Satan'?

I'd be very hurt if a fellow human ever called me a 'Satan', let alone Jesus! I've been called some pretty bad things, but not that. Yet! The Hebrew idea was, of course, akin to a court prosecutor, as distinct from the Evil One. (In Australia, 'Counsel Assisting' a Royal Commission gets pretty close to the original idea of teasing out the case against a person.) Calling Peter 'Satan' means Jesus is taking him seriously. Not dismissing him. Just dismissing his way of looking at things. Are we ever caught out before God because we're looking at things through eyes & minds only too human? Failing to discern the things of God at work in & around us & others. Then, just when we think we've worked (or, wormed?) ourselves into God's Good Books (e.g. Peter's earlier declaration & Jesus' response) whammo, we blot our copy book. We're less likely to fall from grace, even temporarily, when we partake of & operate as Jesus' Body & Blood together, & don't try to live our discipleship individually. What we need is to become it, do it together. That way we check out 'the mind of God' with each other, & are less likely to experience a Satan-like fall from grace in lonely splendour.

When I come to the bit about 'taking up our cross', I always go back to Kosuke Koyama's 'No Handle on the Cross' [SCM, London, '76, p.7] "There is no convenient way to carry a cross....if we put a handle on the cross to carry it as a businessman carries a briefcase, then the Christian faith has lost its ground. Jesus didn't say 'Take up your lunch box & follow me'".

A cross is a juggernaut, an out-of-our-control response to the unfolding of the mind of God in human affairs. Trying to get a handle on it can make us as much a stumbling block to God's Rule as Peter is.

Jesus doesn't prove anything by telling them / us he's going to find his life-in-all-its-fullness by entering into his Passion. Neither do we prove anything by repeating ad nauseam what he says. Jesus demonstrates, as he demonstrates everything, by going through with it. That's our call to follow, too. Demonstrate. There are no handles. On the Cross, or on Resurrection. For us any more than for him.

The Son of Man's apocalyptic characteristics cannot stand alone without ending up as sheer escapism, the very opposite of what the very much earthed Son of Man represents. Take heart! God Rules on the manure heaps of life (out in those margins) as well as in clouds of glory!

The Son of Man  brings God's Rule to a head in his death & resurrection. Could any future coming, no matter how glorious, really upstage that greatest of all Cosmic Events? I think not! Those of us who hold to Jesus through his & our own passion & resurrection will taste of death, but not in any ultimate sense any more than those he speaks to here.

P.S. Is it time for a re-think about whether church has been misunderstanding, misinterpreting & misrepresenting the 'Second Coming' all these years?