28 August 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Oh, Peter! How ridiculous you are! Do you really think that you know better than Jesus?! What a shame you don't know the Lord as well as we do. You and your crazy ideas about Jesus the Warrior-King! All you ever think about is glory and His popularity and power. You sure need Jesus to set you straight.
Hmm...have you stopped and thought about how ridiculous you are? Do you really think that you know better than Jesus? What a shame that you don't know the Lord as well as you think you do. You may not think of glory, popularity and power in terms of an earthly kingdom of Israel, but you have the same sentiments.
Oh! That congregation has five times as many people every Sunday, they must be doing something right! Why do we have all this death and resurrection talk? Why can't we just hear about improving our attitudes or daily life? Maybe we should find something exciting to visitors, and not talk so much about this suffering and sin business. That's kind of a "downer."
Sadly, many churches have done this over the years. Change the message so they don't offend. But that is falling into the same trap as Peter. And when you start feeling the same, and how we might be more popular if we laid off the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus, and instead focused on living your life right, Jesus tells you: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
Yet not only is Jesus' response a rebuke of what Peter said, it is also an urging to "fall in line." "Get behind Me." "Get on board. Take up your cross and follow Me." And with that, He is talking to you, too.
And you are thinking, "Umm. Yeah. Jesus, about that..." it scares you. It disturbs you. You don't want to give any consideration that your life as a Christian is not happy and easy in this world; it can be challenging, difficult, and even painful. "And ya know, while we are at it, we really don't like following. You see, we are born leaders. Don't need anyone else's directions or orders, we've got it under control.
"It's nothing personal, Jesus. We just don't want to think about suffering or dying, or being harassed or humiliated, or having to answer to anyone for anything."
And Jesus says, "Neither did Peter. But I forgive you both." Christ our Lord does not give Peter the pink slip and hire another disciple. He doesn't get mad at him and cut him off from His kingdom. He gives Peter the Law, but then assures repentant Peter with Gospel.
You too. For all the moments that you don't even want to look at the crucifixion, much less dwell on it and ponder it, our loving and forgiving Jesus releases you from the guilt of your sin and "set[s] your mind on the things of God." He restores and renews you, just like He did Peter, and you are His baptized, forgiven child, following Jesus who is carrying your cross too!
Dear friends in Christ, there is your sweet comfort. Your dear Jesus who has borne His own cross to take away your sin and give you life and salvation, now carries your cross too. You are not enduring anything in this life, alone. He endures it all, on your behalf.
The Son of Man endured it all as He came into His kingdom. There on His cross, He was crowned and enthroned, truly gaining the world as He lost His life for it. Having gone up to Jerusalem for you, He repays you according to what He has done, suffering, dying, and rising for you!
So even when life is overwhelming, and you get harassed or suffer for the Gospel, He is there, enduring it for you. Christ is your Mighty Fortress, protecting you so that not even the gates of hell can prevail against His Church.
You are forgiven. You are following Him. And for every failure, He is constantly restoring and renewing you in His one, true faith! "Get behind Me?" Yeah. Fall in line. "Take up your cross and follow Me." Jesus invites you to come after Him today, and with His grace and mercy, thanks be to God, He fulfills our following. Amen.