A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lent: Discipleship in the Way of Jesus

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:49b-52).

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before all of them, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about" (Matthew 26:69-70).

After his arrest, Simon Peter is still following Jesus-- at least from a distance. After that dramatic and traumatic scene in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested, all the disciples fled and left Jesus to his own fate. Peter made an attempt to defend Jesus in drawing his sword, but Jesus would have none of it. Peter had made several attempts to set Jesus straight on the specifics of his role as Messiah. Apparently, Jesus had this bizarre idea that what messiahship was about involved suffering and death. Peter took on the task of instructing Jesus in the true ways of messiahship. So, now, in drawing his sword in the Garden, perhaps Peter and his fellow warriors can fend off the enemy giving Jesus time to escape in order to regroup with his followers in another place. But it was not to be. All of Peter's attempts to persuade Jesus in the virtues of armed resistance are for naught. Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword, warning him that all who rely on it's might will end up on the wrong end of its lethal force.

So Peter and the other disciples flee for their lives. It appears that Peter was willing to make his stand right there east of Jerusalem and die if necessary, but once he realizes that Jesus still persists in doing things his way, the cause is clearly lost. There is now nothing left to do but save oneself. To die for a great cause is one thing, but to die for a delusion is something quite different.

But later on Peter continues to follow Jesus in his own way and from a distance. He waits in the courtyard wondering what news he might gather concerning Jesus' fate. It is there that he denies even knowing Jesus, certainly because he is afraid for his own life, but perhaps also because he doesn't want to be identified with a failed cause. What an embarrassment to spend three years of one's life away from family and one's livelihood following a Messiah who in the end refused to act like one. At least if Jesus had gone out fighting with Peter dying by his side, the living could appreciate the noble effort; but now Peter had to reckon with the fact that he had been following one whose campaign for freedom ended with less than a whimper.

Peter had yet to come to grips with discipleship in the way of Jesus. Peter wanted to follow Jesus but in his own way. Peter wanted Jesus to conform to his expectations; he had yet to learn that following Jesus meant following in the way of the cross. It meant that Peter needed to conform to Jesus' expectations of discipleship. Jesus did not need lessons from Peter on how to be the Messiah; rather Peter needed lessons from Jesus on how to be a disciple... and Jesus was about to teach Peter the most important lesson of all on a hill called Golgotha.

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