(Second Sunday of Lent)
Zachary Baker Rodes
My brothers and sisters, let us pray.
Lord, may we always seek the Truth, whence it comes, cost what it may. Amen.
Right before this passage we hear the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Messiah. “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks and then, if we remember Jesus gives as an order, “And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.” The text then reads that Jesus was only saying that it was the Son of Man that was going to undergo great sufferings. He doesn’t say, I, the Son of Man. Simply teaching what the Son of Man was going to go through. And he said it all quite openly, plainly, boldly even. Peter began to rebuke him and in so doing just broke the divine will that was just proclaimed. “And he sternly ordered them not tell anyone about him.” Peter’s rebuking implies a child-like instruction, a deep sense of condescension towards the Messiah. Jesus then backlashes. In a colloquial way, it might sound something like this, “Who the heck do you think you are to tell me who I am or who I am not after I just told you not to tell anyone. I will tell whoever I want! Step in line, Satan, for you do not dwell on God’s will for you but on the pride of your own, thinking you could shape the will of my Father for you.”
For trusting in the will ofman, and not the will ofGod, one loses the hope that Jesus Christ proclaims to us. That is Peter’s rebuke. That is the rebuke we so often fall into in our relationship with God. But there’s hope, yet.
Then he capitulates. Peter knew who he was and he, Peter, learning a lesson, Jesus calls to the crowd, to us, and calls them to the life in Christ. This is the call by Jesus Christ, this is a will of God that we should follow him and in so doing deny ourselves and even our life, if we have to, so that we may never be ashamed of proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. Now this is not our only will, of course. What God wills for us are as countless as the stars, to use the language of the Hebrew Bible. This life as a Christian, as the bearer of the cross, is a will of God openly said. We are called to a deep humility in Christ that allows for God’s hope, faith, and love to transform us and allows for Jesus to take center stage and use us in the kingdom work here on Earth. It is not that our personality changes, or relationships don’t change, but that the hope of the Gospel is the one that transcends the material frustrations of the present and it is a hope that rests in the Eternal Word of the Son of Man.
Son of Man! That elusive saying. I love the title of Son of Man, whatever its origins, it is my favorite Christological title. Here, Jesus links the Son of Man with who he is. God Incarnate. Fully God and Fully Man. Born ofmankind, through Mary, and therefore, a son of man. The title in our modern inference evokes a gendered language, yet ultimately it calls us to reflect on the humanness of Jesus Christ through the revelation of Jesus as God.
Why is there a cross to bear in this faith in Christ? This is a cross to bear when the world around us seeks to rest their hope in the material, which is reality, instead of God’s will, which is Truth. Reality is not the Truth. The truth is found in what God speaks, wills for us. Paul writes in Romans that all this depends on faith to receive the grace of God. And it is by this faith I believe Jesus Christ is Lord. In Christ there is a cross to bear that reveals itself as God and the eternal hope that is within him. In this sinful and adulterous generation, there has been a hoping against all hope. I do not mean to use this strong language to say how evil this world is, only to remind us how broken this world is. The phrase “this generation” doesn’t connote a current population during a period of time, but simply, as one commentator puts it, “an unfaithfulness to God’s priorities”. Paul reminds us of Abraham putting priority into the hope of God’s promise for him despite any material reality that said otherwise.
This hope is something I realized recently I’ve been living without. Despite what 2020 was, I think I was good at spotting the hopeful moments, the ones that made life a little bit easier. I hope you could spot those as well. But it was not a year in which I relished in God’s eternal hopefulness. That is until recently. It wasn’t sudden, it wasn’t an epiphany. It was a slow pour, through prayer and contemplation, rest and relaxation, reading and writing, until one day I was filled with the hope that no matter what, God is there.
In the Jesus’ rebuke, we do see hope. The hope of the life into which we have been saved, Jesus Christ. This does not mean our earthly path is void and we merely scorch earth or wait around. We live out this saving hope by living out our reality, our cross to pick up and bear, in which faith, hope, and love flourish in way that allows for the will of God to bring truth into the world, to the glory of the Son of Man.
May it be so, Amen.