Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Friday, March 8, 2013

With Peter On The Road

The Road to Jerusalem.  It’s the heart of the Lenten narratives, and yet what were the disciples of Jesus thinking?  We know that some of them were troubled, of course.  They wondered what could possibly come of this journey into danger.  How would Jesus present himself in Jerusalem?  Where were the allies he would need to stake a claim as Israel’s Messiah?  What would become of them as his followers?  So many questions we’d like answered, and yet we have very little to go on.

One disciple blurted out his reservations, however.  Simon Peter tried to stop the whole proceeding in its tracks, and for his trouble he received a stinging rebuke.  It quieted him then, but what thoughts might he have harbored as the little band journeyed toward the Holy City?  Perhaps something like this:


He called me Satan...said I spoke the wisdom of men, not God, but all I said grew out of my love for him...my desire that he not be hurt...that his work not be destroyed.  I can't fathom it, even now.

We'd left Capernaum, gone north toward Mt. Hermon to get away from the crowds, to pray, to gather ourselves.  They pressed him so...at one point they would have made him king...we needed room to breathe.

He used the time for prayer, and to teach us.  Then he gathered the twelve of us together, and asked us what people were saying about him.  We answered as we dared: some said he was a prophet, some John the baptizer, some Jeremiah or Elijah, who is to come before the Messiah.

Then he fixed us with his eyes: "Very well, who do you say that I am?"

We were dumbstruck.  No one wanted to say the words, but finally I could take the silence no more: "You are the Christ," I said, the words seeming to come from far away, "the Son of the Living God."  We braced for his reaction.

His face relaxed as soon as I said it, though.  "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."

But then he began to speak strangely, telling us that he had to go now to Jerusalem, to face the very powers that sought to destroy him, to suffer and to die.  To die!  My mind couldn't take it in.  One moment he acknowledged that he was the Savior of the world, and the next that he must die.

I told him he couldn't do that.  He was too important to throw his life away.

And that was when he said it:  "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are not on the side of God, but of men.  If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

I do not understand.  None of us understands.

And yet day by day, now, we walk toward Jerusalem.  His face is set in a way I've never seen before.

On to this confrontation.  On, he says, to his death.

Why?  Shouldn’t we be preparing to defend him?

How does this make any sense?

I don’t know, and can only pray that he does.

Howard MacMullen
©March 2013

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