31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected… He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. 33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Sometimes we treat faith like something we store in our closet: We pull it out when we want to, at our convenience. But Jesus isn’t a thing. He is a person, and we have a relationship with him. As our relationship grows, he becomes more to us. No longer just a teacher, Jesus becomes the one we trust to save us, direct us, and call the shots in our lives. This is what is implied by the term Messiah.
A moment earlier in the gospel story, Peter earns a gold star for rightly concluding that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Now Peter gets the dunce cap for “reprimanding” Jesus. Peter is us: Even when we get it, we don’t get it. Even if we support God’s ends, we struggle to understand God’s means. In Peter’s mind, a person can’t be rejected and still be the Messiah. How can a rescuer save us if he can’t even save himself? Among those who believe in the power of the cross, it still puzzles us. But Jesus teaches that he will not merely rescue us from temporary things like political oppression or economic injustice. He came to save us from permanent things: Hopelessness, shame, alienation and death. The only way to save us from such things was to confront them head-on at the cross. That requires suffering.
We will do anything to avoid pain. But to the extent that we are called to be Jesus’ disciples (which is completely), we make ourselves vulnerable to the reality of suffering, both in our lives and in the lives of others. The cross means suffering doesn’t have to be pointless. God can use it to transform our character to be like that of Jesus. Jesus promises us a life of purpose, not a life of ease.
Jesus, my Messiah, use the pain of life to make me more like you.
Dialog discuss: It’s not time alone that cooks (or burns), or ripens, or educates, or heals – it’s what goes on during that time. How much heat is generated? How much sunshine is present? How many courses do you complete? How will you let God minister to your pain? Time doesn’t heal our spirits. God does – as we give him permission to work in us, through us, and with us. And that healing can start today. Chonda Pierce