In certain respects, our weekly readings can be like watching a film in segments, ten minutes here, then minutes there. Like any film if you watched it that way you would either not understand whats going on, or, perhaps get the wrong end of the stick, or it may be because you have seen the film before you know roughly where we are.
I think this week reading requires a long view, see why people have reacted this way. Essentially to get under the skin of todays reading I think we have to work on a little context.
Imagine it, a chap comes wandering past you while you’re at a steady job fishing, collecting taxes.
He asks you to follow him
You sense something, drop everything, follow him every day for three years.
Eat, Sleep, talk, pray, wander with him as he preaches in town after town.
You learn to love him with all your heart, and all your soul.
You learn that in fact he is the son of God, the Messiah.
That means different things to different people. The saviour of your people, or the one that is going to bring back the land from brutal oppression.
Messiahs were expected to bring power back to Jerusalem, deliver political and military victory over the current occupying force. . You totally believe in this one. Previous claimants had ended up with
with roman justice, roman empire , roman peace celebrated because the Jewish leader had been killed
Various Prophets all died, having had their say, tried to get the word of God to be listened too.
But this one , this one was different. He performs miracles, feeds 4000 people , heals people, comes out with stuff that makes the world make sense.
He asks you, one of the chaps that’s dropped your steady job, left your family, followed him for three years.
He ask you Who do YOU think I am – you tell him – you’re the Messiah, and you KNOW he knows what that means, what each and every one of you has invested in that word. You’re going to put it all back, get rid of the romans, put Israel back on top! You’re going to be all that those very dead prophets promised.
He tells you a simple fisherman, the impetuous one, the one that always gets it a little wrong, that you are the rock he is going to build his church around. Hows that going to make you feel, promised that by the Messiah. That’s trust way beyond anything a fisherman ever expected.
Then he says – don’t tell anyone I am the Messiah. Which isn’t denying it at the very least, and confirms it in most peoples way of thinking about that, and you know in your heart that he is, you dropped everything for him, got more than you ever imagined, saw things that will stay with you forever. This is the son of God.
THAT’S where we step into today’s segment of the story, that’s where we restart the DVD, or pressed play on the Netflix movie.
So with this context we move on to todays reading
From that time on he starts telling you he has to go to Jerusalem, the seat of power that hates him, the most dangerous place any of you could go. Then he says and here’s the kicker.
When I get there I am going to suffer and die!
Because your Peter, the rash one , You sort of grab him by the arm and say “God Forbid it lord this must never happen”!!
So many things would elicit that response, Love for the man in front of you, the fact the man you left your home for just calmly said “I am going to suffer and die”
The man you believe is the messiah, who said your going to be the rock! Is going to die, messiahs don’t do that! They don’t die!
His reaction is a rebuke, Get behind me satan! Then he calls you the stumbling block to him, (the very opposite of a rock your going to build on).
Then he says, the thing that we still struggle to get because we are human.
The only way to follow me is to deny yourself.
(which sort of works, because you denied yourself a LOT to get here)
Then he says the real mad strange thing
The only way to save your life is to lose it.
Save your life is to lose it,
I don’t know about you, I like to win at things. Scrabble, Monopoly, win at work, win arguments with the wife (albeit that never happens). I like my football team to win , albeit I support west ham and winning happens only slightly more often than I win arguments at home…
On one level Jesus just said, the only way you win is by losing. In Alice through the looking glass, Alice finds out the only way forward is to step back, the only way up to go, is to go down. This is like that isn’t it? It makes no sense, sometimes even to us who have the fact of the resurrection, who are post Emmaus.
For The disciples following Jesus logic meant he just stepped through the looking glass.
Actually what Jesus did was explain the actual only way Christianity makes an ounce of sense. Without this idea when you boil it down none of it works. Get this idea and everything fits, miss the point and it whooshes past in a whirl of confusion. Things contradict, and jar with the world and his message. Get it and everything sort of works, what he said , and what we are supposed to do.
My mission today is to try and work towards that point, that Jesus was making.
Don’t get me wrong I dont think we can relax after we get this; but what Jesus was talking about today we have to grasp to make the rest make sense.
It’s a bit like when I was a kid and I missed a lot of maths classes through being ill. You cant do Algebra if you don’t know how to add up, subtract and divide.
There’s still algebra to come here, but the essence of this story, the principle is right at the core of our faith
Jesus is the ultimate example of self-sacrifice. Why; because he is an immortal, eternal God , complete in every way, needing nothing, that made himself small enough to be a man through love. Dying and resurrecting opens the way to salvation for us all, and he has to do that for us all. Gave us victory over sin, defeated death.
The mysteries and models of atonement are another day’s conversation.
But there’s also the question of what do we, here today do with this story;
And that’s the other thing also he’s showing us the only way the world works; and that’s where I want to spend the rest of my time.
He knows that when everyone gives everything to everyone, then nobody wants. If we give everything to each other regardless of whether we like them or not, nobody wants for anything. The only way to reach that point is when enough people break the chain of taking from each other, and share love from the limitlessness of God.
We as Christians are taught the only way to make it work is to give to each other, the only way that we make his kingdom come is when give to each other because then we receive from each other as well; to give when we don’t want to, to give when we would rather hold on to what we have.
Fortunately, Paul takes Jesus point and explains it long hand for us, what does this giving achieve. That is exactly what Paul is explaining today, what Jesus was doing times a million and what we have to do to replicate that in our small way.
Marks of the True Christian (Romans 12:9 – end)
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[c] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So when Jesus said “get away from me Satan” its because in protecting life, protecting what we have, we take life, protecting Jesus from Giving was being overcome by evil, and he wanted to overcome evil with good.
The limitless giving of our god, has as Paul explained to be replicated by limitless giving, giving to each other?
Limitless giving is how our lord saved us, and gave us salvation and
Salvation most academics think is better translated as making whole or healing
Our lord gave everything to make us whole,heal us to be who he wanted us to be
When we give to each other we make each other whole and he wants us to give without limits
That’s the way the world works, do I think we can do that?
I know I can’t, but I have faith my lord will help me try, and that faith gives me access to grace.
Grace overcomes the shortfall, in my efforts and Ill rely on that.
Jesus knows we can’t, we aren’t able the worlds too broken but he wants us to try. To try and give as much love as we can to each other to try and lift each other up and make the other whole.
So, to conclude
Peter had Grace when he missed the point, and grabbed Jesus arm and said “no that’s not happening”
We all have grace when we miss the point, that’s why we need grace so much. We as Christians must keep trying, we try because we have been shown how to make it work, how to make each other whole by giving..
Thy Kingdom come is Jesus asking us to do that, make each other whole.
Grace is for the times we miss the point
Father Jo once said to me if I get to heaven I want our lord to say nice try.
Amen to that.