When Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God,” he got it about Jesus. Right?
But here he is responding to Jesus who is trying to show the disciples he is facing suffering, death and resurrection. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
“Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus responds.
The phrase, You are the Messiah, the son of the living God, is well-known. It reminds me of a student saying what they think their professor wants to hear.
Get behind me, Satan, also well-known, attributed to Jesus, always gets our attention.
We squirm. Is Jesus talking to us?It seems to me Jesus is probably fed up, feeling cranky and alone. He has spoken truth to power. He is well aware the Pharisees and Scribes are out to get him because he threatens their understanding, and their authority.
He knows they are going to kill him and it is going to be ugly. He also trusts God to raise him up into more abundant life. Maybe he snaps at Peter, Get behind me, Satan, because here is Peter, his companion and friend who seemed to understand, and now doesn’t. Perhaps Jesus is feeling isolated without a friend in the world who understands him fully.
Have you ever felt truly alone?
Perhaps you’ve been divorced.
Maybe someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Perhaps you’re a teenager whose best friend has thrown you over.
Or you have just gotten a horrible diagnosis with a frightening prognosis.
Maybe you are a mom or dad caring for little children, home all day alone, with no adult conversation.
Perhaps you are caring for someone who is ill.
Perhaps your beloved has died.
A preacher acquaintance of mine wears a ring from his deceased wife and he tells a poignant tale of the death-bed promise he made to her.
He is now in his eighties, still active, a tall, stately, handsome man who is intelligent and articulate. His wife has been dead for many years, but she has a strong grip on him. She made him promise to never remarry.
This faithful man kept that promise. When he told me about it, I felt such sorrow for him, and a little angry at the dead wife who was so possessive. I wondered what their lives might really have been like. He was coping okay but was clearly lonely.
When Jesus begins 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, Peter does what we all want to do when we face our death or the death of a loved one. He tries to find a way to protect Jesus. He doesn’t want Jesus to suffer and he certainly doesn’t want him to be killed. He does not hear the part about Jesus being raised on the third day.
As human beings, it seems to me we should bless Peter for caring so much, for wanting to step in and offer protection, but Jesus will have none of it. “Get behind me, Satan!” He is exasperated with Peter. Perhaps in today’s language Jesus might say, “For heaven’s sake!”
Jesus wants everyone to understand the nature of divinity and to experience the presence of God in the here and now as well as trusting in an afterlife free from suffering, immersed in the energy of love, the wholeness of eternity.
So what does he, this man who is also God, this man who is completely plugged into Grace, this Jesus, what does he teach?
He says, For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
For my sake, for Christ’s sake carries with it deep meaning.
Jesus is going to die on the cross. We’ve heard endless times that his death “saves” us from our sins. Yet, even more important is the message of love, “I am going to lay down my life for you.”
So what can we do for Christ’s sake?
We can do nothing unless we are plugged into grace and understand that the true nature of divinity is not death, but love. The true nature of divinity is not crucifixion but resurrection.
How are we to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake?
Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.
Take Ruth, my mother-in-law, Philip’s mom. She was a woman of great faith which fed her ability to love others. Most of her life she worshipped in a Disciples of Christ church in Warren, Ohio.
Starting out when her children were tots, she took care of the little children in the nursery. She kept on working in the nursery for 40 years. 40 Years! What began out of love for her own children grew into love for the children of others.
Once she got older, she retired from the nursery and was finally able to spend her time in the sanctuary in Worship. She loved that.
Outside of the church, her life reflected how rooted she was in the holistic life of Christ.
She was a good mother, and raised 4 children. She was a good wife, preparing meals, keeping house, baking fresh bread every week for her husband, and o, her fruit pies were second to none.
As an older lady, she got a job at a hospital serving people their meals. She loved doing that, serving not only chicken and jello, but offering a kind word to ailing people.
Another Teresa, one of the saints of the church, Teresa of Avila says: All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted.
|This is important. We cannot be what we are not.
|In every human being lies a seed waiting to be watered to life. To be encouraged to pursue our interests, our talents, is life’s greatest gift. The people who encourage us never die to us; they live in us always for having made our own lives full. Joan Chittester
Heaven is a state of being–it’s allowing the divine to guide our lives. Divine guidance might come in the form of dreams, prophecies and visions, but more likely it comes through the activities we most yearn for, and is found in the people who encourage us–realistically, but lovingly.
Peter is not misguided when he wants to protect Jesus from what is coming. He undoubtedly does not want to lose his teacher and friend, the man who has encouraged him to become so much more than he ever thought possible. His desire to keep Jesus safe arises out of love. Imagine how lonely he will feel without his best friend, Jesus.
Loneliness is so common. You can be in a crowd of people and feel a total disconnect.
I looked on the Internet for ways to combat loneliness. There were some good ideas about joining a group, taking a class, and so-on. All good ideas except they missed one thing. For Christ’s sake, for heaven’s sake, the antidote to loneliness, and the answer to life is to forget ourselves.
Babies, children and youth are by nature more self-centered. They need care and direction from adults. Alas not all adults, and in fact most adults, are not one hundred percent mature, free of issues. We are not perfect beings. Yet.
So where will we plant our feet in the holy ground of connectedness to life and to other people?
We all know heaven is not found in the accumulation of things, or power, or prestige, but is found in the open heart who gives himself or herself to God which simply means becoming a font of love, becoming the living water for others.
Not only did Ruth take care of the little ones, she also quilted, selling the quilts to raise money for the church. Sewing for her was practical, an art-form, and the basis of lasting and enriching community. Thus, she used her skills, doing something she enjoyed to help other people and to help her church.
When we say yes to Jesus and do our best to follow his teachings, out of our passions, our interests, coupled with love, immersed in the wisdom of Christ, the chains which bind us will be loosed and loneliness is bearable, and life is more abundant.
We are like Peter and would much rather protect ourselves and our loved ones from death. No one knows the hour or the time, but when we forget ourselves for Jesus’ sake, we enter the kingdom of heaven.
For heaven’s sake, on the third day, Jesus was raised, and we too will be raised into a radiant love beyond the boundaries of this life.
be genuine in sharing your love, arising from the love of God.
share the joy of those who rejoice,
mingle your tears with those who weep.
welcome everyone, especially those who feel alone and afraid.
God is a term, a word, a name for an eternal process…
You are never alone.
Listen to sung psalms. so much wisdom in these poems, these inspired moments through, well, through us: Saint Paul Cathedral Choir: Psalm 121
psalm 23 sung in Hebrew with English text
Psalm 23 (ဆာလံ ၂၃) – Cer Khun Sung (Akuk)