Peter confesses what he will later deny 3 times and again confess to the Risen Christ 3 times. Peter announces that he believes Jesus is the Messiah; Christ means the Messiah or the Anointed One. He doesn’t know what he is really confessing. Peter didn’t expect God incarnate living as a Palestinian peasant teaching and preaching across the countryside. Peter expected a human anointed by God for the purpose of saving the people. What Peter didn’t expect is the Anointed One is God in the flesh. Jesus didn’t fit Peter’s Messianic expectations. Peter confessed Jesus is the Messiah based on human things, not of Divine things.
We today may not fully understand what it means to confess that Jesus is the Christ. Theologian Harry Adams writes: “when we speak of Jesus and who He is for us, we need to do so with the humility and the reserve that comes from awareness that we may have the title right but may not fully understand its meaning.” You see, we want to make Jesus relevant to the comfort of our daily lives so that He is the soft and gentle Divine friend rather than recognizing that His ministry was about the social and economic concerns of the day and His death was political. He is concerned with political, social, and economic issues though we want to think of Him in terms of Heaven and eternal salvation. We are tempted not to think of Him in the present day.
Christians look to the book of Isaiah to try to understand who Jesus is. We are familiar with some texts from Christmas that call the son a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. The book of Isaiah includes the text about a virgin giving birth. Isaiah gives us more than reflection at Christmas time. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet imagines a suffering Messiah, who is a servant and suffers for the sake of the people.
Christians can look back with the perfect vision of hindsight to see Christ as the suffering servant Isaiah believed in. However, the Disciples had expectations of a King Messiah in the royal lineage of King David who would restore the great nation of Israel and free her people from the rule of the Roman Empire. So, who is the Prince of Peace that Peter confesses to be Messiah if not nationalistic? From what or for what has He saved them? The Messiah is a Human One who must endure the full experience of humanity, including suffering a humiliating death in order to bridge the gap of sin that separates God and humanity. Jesus will restore the Divine-human relationship, not the Kingdom of Israel.
Only when we have heard and accept what it means that He is Messiah can we hear His call to follow Him and understand that discipleship is the natural succession of confessing that Jesus is the Messiah. As Jesus said, we must be willing to give our lives, that is, we must be willing to participate in the sacrifice. This saying is in all 4 Gospels. A number of Jesus’ teachings and the stories about Him appear in maybe 3 of the Gospels, but not often all 4 of the Gospels. This is one teaching that appears in all 4 Gospels which tells us that this was a fundamental value of the followers of Christ worthy of recording by all 4 Gospel writers.
Sacrifice, that is giving up our lives, is discipleship. Discipleship is not just what we do Sunday mornings. The cost of discipleship is more than all the things we do to make the church do its Sunday morning and committee stuff. Discipleship includes the Monday through Saturday reaching out to and loving our neighbors. Discipleship is the activity of visiting the sick and imprisoned, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and healing the sick. Discipleship is the sacrifice of our time and money to carry the cross of salvation to the ones in need of social and economic salvation, not just the cross of relativism to the ones in need of an eternal friend.
Saying that we must give our life and take up our cross isn’t glib advice for dealing with burdens. There are things in life we tolerate and hope that there will soon be a change. We hope that somehow, some way the burden will be gone. The hope of our faith is more than the far off tomorrow. The hope of our faith is a change for tomorrow as in the day after today. Those things we tolerate may be things we just want to go away.
We hope for a big change in the situation when the miracle may be a change in us, in our perspective. The greatest sacrifice we can make is giving up our human perspective in exchange for Divine perspective. That is a difficult truth to accept. Sacrifice may be as hard as giving up what we think about a situation and being open-minded enough to accept God’s evaluation of the situation.
Many of us are concerned about a few households in town. The few houses in town I am talking about are a nuisance and causing much frustration. There are too many people living in one house. Some people have camped out in the backyard of one. There is too much drinking, fighting, yelling, panhandling, and theft. Mischief happens when too many people live in such close quarters. These few households are keeping our local and county police quite busy.
There has been some change. Some have moved from St. John St. to another house around the corner. Others have moved in. It seems there are more children and youth wandering around these houses. And, the police visit just as frequently. That’s just what I can see from my front porch. There are other houses in the village that cause concern.
We deserve peace and quiet, safety and security in our homes. Those are important human things to be concerned about. There are also Divine things to which we can give our attention. We think our neighborhoods need saved from our nuisance neighbors when in fact they are in need of saving. How do we love them and show them grace and help them out of their current circumstances while maintaining our security?
There are children in these households. More than one has shown up on my doorstep. One asking for money. Another afraid to go home. I overheard 2 talking yesterday. One girl talking about her high school experience told another girl that she had been failing 2 classes, she wasn’t getting the support she needed at home or from counselors, and had just given up.
The adults in these homes may be stuck in a cycle of who-knows-what. But, surely, there is hope for the children. They need a stable home with a bed to sleep in, a table with food to eat for dinner, a place to do their homework.
I don’t have the answer. I am still holding onto my human perspective. I have been watching it and praying about this for months. If I had a solution, I would be making my plea for your support to implement a plan. But, instead, I am asking you, “What are we going to do?” The cost of discipleship is that we must sacrifice our human perspective and look to God for a new vision including how we are going to participate in God’s plan of salvation.