IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
Something has changed in the narratives Issy and I are reading. The gospel truths as seen through this harmonized view, has caused something to pop out like lightning, especially in Matthew’s account.
In the Bible study aid I have been using, R. A. Torrey, while referring to Peter, asks us to consider, “Do we think we know better than He [God], what He ought to do?”
We read, “From that time on Jesus began to explain. . .”[i]
October A.D. 29, Christ’s Predictions & Peter Rebuked
Something around us had changed and it is obvious with the words we started hearing from Jesus.
I didn’t like His tone. It was too eerie, even scary. But he started to speak very frankly to us about events which He seemed to have no control over. It sounded like these events would overtake Him, and, I supposed, us too.
No, I didn’t like this at all. “This is not what I signed on for,” I kept thinking.
These people are such morons. Finally I said, “If this is going to take place in Jerusalem,[ii] then why don’t we just stay away from Jerusalem?”
A few of the men agreed with me, especially Thomas.[iii] He didn’t want to die with Jesus either.
I was still confused about something. How did Jesus know all these things will happen to Him?
There was something He said that did make sense, though. He said, “I will be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law.”[iv]
To me that made sense because of how he had recently insulted them. But then the next thing He said made me think He was just being melodramatic.
He said, “They will make me suffer many things and they will kill me.”[v]
Really, this was about all I could handle, until He made his next prediction, and then I knew He was a loon. He said, “On the third day after my death, I will be raised to life.”[vi]
I looked at Peter and raised my eyebrows, which I hope communicated, “Peter, this guy just isn’t right.”
I think it did, because Peter immediately took Jesus aside and lowering his booming voice began to rebuke Jesus, saying, “Never Lord, never will this happen to You!”[vii]
And then Jesus, always ready to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, rebuked Peter right back, but Jesus’ words were brutal.
He said to Peter, “Get behind me, sataN, you are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”[viii]
We all heard it and we were all stunned. Peter was one of Jesus’ favorites. But for Him to talk to Peter like that, something was wrong. Something was changing in this little band of ours. Perhaps something had already changed.
Andrew pulled Peter aside and sat him down.
But Jesus wasn’t done. I mean, He was done rebuking Peter. And, thank goodness, because I don’t think Peter could endure that again, not that I cared. I was caring less and less for these men.
There was another crowd with us. There was always a crowd. Anyway, Jesus pulled the crowd together and maneuvered them alongside us. He was within arm’s length of Peter and lovingly put a hand on Peter’s big shoulders and said to all of us, “If you are going to follow me, you must deny yourself.”[ix]
He then squeezed Peter’s shoulder. It was a very tender moment, even for the big stupid fisherman, for he looked up into Jesus’ eyes and Jesus said to him, but also to all of us, “If you want to save your life, be careful, for you will lose it, but if you are willing to lose your life, for My sake, you will save it.”[x]
I stood in the back of the crowd and pulled a bread roll out of my bag. “This is crazy-talk,” I said to no one in particular. “This is crazy.”
But Jesus kept talking. He was talking about getting rich, losing one’s soul, and being ashamed of Him (which I often was lately). He called us a sinful and adulterous generation. I decided to stop listening. I couldn’t handle anymore.
And then I heard Him say one last thing. He said that some of us there with Him, “would not taste death before we see the kingdom of God come with power.”[xi]
I just looked down in disgust and said, “Sure Jesus. I’ll believe it when I see it. You’ve had plenty of opportunities to show the power of God by taking control of our nation. And You’ve refused.”
February 19th, Sunday Morning, Arlington VA
“What must this have been like for these followers of Jesus, babe?”
“How do you mean, Jude?”
“Well, every time I read this account I can’t help but think these men were just walking the streets of ancient Israel, and without them knowing, their circumstances were changing and Jesus was trying to prepare them for things that would happen in the near future.”
“Are you’re saying these guys had no clue?”
“Exactly, Issy. Tons of things were going on around them and they couldn’t see it.”
I paused because it was obvious Issy was contemplating something. And then she said, “So, a surprising challenge might be, asking God to make me aware of what is going on around me.”
She was still thinking and then went on. “And an unusual promise would be that even though I do not see what is going on, I can trust the Lord to prepare me.”
“Wow,” she continued, more to herself than to me. “The job-related directive can be very challenging too, without telling you what is on my mind, of course.”
I chuckled and kissed her gently for always being protective of our employment commitments.
And then I said, “I am also fascinated about how life must have been changing around these first century men and women without them realizing it.”
I looked at Issy and then said, “Baby, things could be swirling around you and me and we might not be seeing it. Let me pray my promise and challenge.”
Issy and I bowed and clasped hands. “Father,” I started, “I am so grateful for Your Son’s example here on earth with His disciples. What a wonderful promise to know that no matter what is spinning towards Issy and me, or away from us, You are in control. And Lord, I’m challenged to trust You, for whatever You have up Your sleeve for me and Issy, whether we see it or not. In the Name of Your Son we pray, Amen.”
I looked at my watch and then at Issy who seductively raised her eyebrows at me.
We got to church a few minutes late and I didn’t see Harold anywhere. I hate to admit it, but it was sure a relief to not see him.
As we left church it was still bitter cold, so we put thick gloves on, which kept us from holding hands the way we like to. Instead, Issy grabbed my arm and leaned her bundled-up head into my shoulder.
As we trudged on, I told Issy I think I need to keep our pastor in the loop about the little flair-up with Harold.
She agreed, and added, “But not in a tattling way, just in a, ‘Pastor, I want to keep you in the loop,’ sort of a way.”
I agreed and shot off an email to him as soon as we reached home. I wanted to send it while we were walking, but I needed to keep my gloves on.
Shortly after arriving home, a text came through. It read, “Jude, this is Dale. I forgot to tell you, I’m going to be in D.C. this Tuesday and Wednesday. Are you up for some Mexican food again?”
I told Issy about the text and she asked me to remind her who this guy is. I told her, “He’s the guy who comes to D.C. each month to pray with elected officials, and often the staffers.”
I invited her to come along which she was interested in doing, “If we do not do Mexican.” I knew what she was thinking, “If we do Mexican food, you’ll do the fumigating of my clothes.”
[i] Matthew 16:21a
[ii] Matthew 16:21m
[iii] John 11:16
[iv] Mark 8:31m
[v] Luke 19:22a
[vi] Matthew 16:21e
[vii] Matthew 16:22
[viii] Matthew 16:23
[ix] Luke 9:23a
[x] Luke 9:24, partially paraphrased
[xi] Mark 9:1