Sunday, January 26, 2020

down is up

What a pivotal moment in the life of Simon Peter (Matthew 16:21-28).  He has just made his profession of Jesus as the Christ, and has been rewarded with a new name and a new identity.  From now on his true name is no longer Simon Bar-Jonah, but Peter—the rock.  On top of that, he has just been given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, to bind and to loose.  What a huge responsibility!  Can you imagine being given such power and authority?  That’s probably why Jesus then began to tell Peter exactly what that meant, and exactly what it was supposed to look like. Because what it was supposed to look like was very different from what Peter imagined.

In fact, life with Jesus often leads in the exact opposite direction of what we might expect.  Life with Jesus is about self-sacrifice rather than self-actualization.  In the kingdom of God, we find our lives by losing them.  Life with Jesus is about dependence rather than independence, about powerlessness rather than power, about stepping down rather than climbing up.  Life with Jesus is about descending rather than ascending.  In the kingdom of God, down is up, and Peter needed to learn that.

That’s why Jesus immediately began to tell Peter, and the other disciples, about his suffering and death.  Almost as if to say, “Peter, this way you are on—this life of following me—always leads downward.”

But Peter had something very different in mind.  Peter was about moving up, ruling in power, and sitting on a throne.  He was like, “No Jesus, we are not going down, we are going up.  That’s the plan I signed up for.”

To which Jesus responded, “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.  The “things of men” are all about trying to move up, but I am about moving down.  And if you want to follow me, that’s where this life will lead. For down is up in the kingdom of God.  Are you with me?”

Well, are you?

Lord Jesus, I get it backwards so often.  Forgive me.  Forgive me when I make this life about me rather than about you.  Forgive me when I pursue praise and acclaim and admiration more than I seek you.  Forgive me when I try to climb up rather than following you on the downward way.  Help me, Lord Jesus, to always have in mind the things of God rather than the things of men.  Amen. 

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