From that time 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. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
‘…it is not enough to dream of a world transformed under the narrow set of parameters out of which we all tend to operate. Dreaming of this world will require that our imaginations expand beyond the calculus of power and influence within which we now function….You do not understand Christ till you understand His Cross.… It is only by understanding it that we escape from religion with no mind, and from religion which is all mind, from pietism with its lack of critical judgement, and from rationalism with its lack of everything else” (PT Forsyth The cruciality of the Cross)
Peter operated within the parameters of his Jewish faith which did not include the Messiah suffering and dying on a Roman form of execution ie the Cross. As spokesman for the disciples we can assume the others thought the same. Peter could not countenance his beloved Master willingly travelling towards Jerusalem, suffering and death, any more than a similar journey being undertaken by the disciples. Jesus’ sharp rebuke to Peter must have shocked them all. The disciples are not just to be witnesses of Jesus’ suffering but participants in it. They don’t just get to tell about it. They will actually live through Jesus’ suffering in their own bodies. It’s all so much to absorb, that I wonder if they took in Jesus’ promise of God’s reward.
We operate within the parameters of our faith. Do our dreams of a transformed world include the necessity of suffering for our faith? How different is our reaction from that of Jesus’ disciples when faced with the reality that we too are called not just to be witnesses but participants in Christ’s body here on earth? What part are you and I, members of Christ’s church, prepared to play in God’s continuing work?
Gracious God we thank you for members of Christ’s church who witness to his presence daily through word and deed, undeterred by the cost. Help us to be your people not just in word, but also in deed. Let your Spirit strengthen us in times of suffering and trial, so that we prove good disciples of the one who suffered, died, and rose again for us, your well beloved Son Amen
The Revd John A Young, retired minister of National Synod of Scotland, member Giffnock URC