Rev. Daniel Eggold
Aug 21, 2020
Jeremiah 15:15–21; Psalm 26; Romans 12:9–21; Matthew 16:21–28
In an age when self-help and “finding oneself” are high cultural values, it can be easy to see these tasks as a steady trajectory toward a fixed end, one that we can control.
Jesus says, on the other hand, that in order to find our life—our identity—we must seek to lose it. We are to identify with Jesus so completely that he becomes our identity. And here’s the ace-in-the-hole, the part that even our therapists and life coaches can accept:It’s not that we identify with Jesus in order to forget who we are—to forget the childhood that wasn’t perfect, the mistakes we made as teenagers, and the people we’ve hurt along the way. We identify with Jesus in order to remember who we are—children of God who are created by God.
So, what of Peter? He’s just been named the Rock and handed the keys to the kingdom. But he’s already trying so hard to protect this newfound identity that he forgets how he got it in the first place. It’s no wonder that when his hopes for the kingdom are threatened and Jesus talks about death, Peter is the one to say, “Hold up!”
Jesus diagnoses Peter correctly—he is clinging to his new self-understanding as “right-hand man” more than God. It’s his protectiveness and rigidity that earn him the name Satan, not his zeal.
When Jesus says that we must lose our lives, he’s not offering a formula. Jesus is asking for a willingness to accept something different from what we’ve planned or expected,a willingness for Peter to relinquish his understanding of what it means to be the Rock. It’s only this willingness to follow a meandering path and to give up our control over the outcome that results in the found life we all look for.
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.