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The True Cost of Really Following Jesus

Matthew 16:21-28 by Katy Lines

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” — Well done, Peter!

Susan’s trail guide led us through some of the implications and challenges that Peter’s “Good Confession” has for the church. The text for this trail guide continues that. Peter’s confession elicits a blessing from Jesus— “you figured it out! You understand!” But now, Peter puts his own thoughts and feelings ahead of the way of Jesus (oh, Peter! Silly man...who is all of us).

Peter hears Jesus’ words forecasting the impending storm— religious leaders’ power and authority and maintenance of the status quo are under threat from the alternate (and ultimate) reality of Jesus’ way. And foundations are being laid to do away with the (Jesus) problem. But Jesus is preparing to turn the tables on these plans, and through death, put to death violence as a symbol and tool of power. Peter hears Jesus facing this storm head 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.

In spite of being blessed for understanding Jesus’ identity, Peter continues to prioritize his own interests over Jesus’ way: Peter gives precedence to his own self-preservation, his own emerging role as the “right hand man” of an up-and-coming champion of the people (which comes with potential privileges). And in that Very Important Position as Jesus’ right hand man, he perhaps feels obligated to speak up— So Jesus... this plan isn’t what your people want, and it certainly isn’t in their best interests. God forbid! This must never happen to you! Peter’s correction of Jesus’ priorities is a temptation to Jesus, a potential hindrance (stumbling block) to his mission. Yes, the people really do need me. There’s more work to be done. Do I really need to go to Jerusalem? Thankfully, Jesus is so connected with his Father (they are one! John 10:30) and focused on his mission, that he hears Peter’s plea for what it truly is: self- interest contrary to Jesus’ plan. But even now, Jesus shows Peter the way: Get behind me! Jesus does not break relationship with Peter (though he accuses Peter of selfish motives); instead, he pulls Peter back into his proper role as follower: behind Jesus, following Jesus.

Give up your life for my ways. Release the bonds of self-centeredness. Be willing to not be first. Be willing to deny yourself. Be willing to look not only to your interests, but to the path before us. Follow my lead— By offering myself to this path of healing, forgiving, listening, loving, I enact creation made whole. By submitting myself to this path, the principalities and powers of this world are put to death, that they too might be made right. I am willing to give up my glory, my rightful place of honor for the sake of the world; are you? Follow me!

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