“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman!” These words, from a bygone era of American superheroes, were uttered from the cries of bystanders as they watched their beloved Superman fly in and save the day. But Superman has fallen on hard times culturally speaking. He was too perfect and too powerful for our contemporary tastes. So his narrative gets re-written. His persona becomes more flawed, more morally ambiguous. He becomes weaker. He becomes more human. When we don’t like the character, we re-write the script.
Our text this morning highlights a similar reality. People had ideas about who Jesus was – he must be a prophet they said. But Peter confesses: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The world was misidentifying Jesus, but Peter seems to recognize him. And Jesus points out that Peter, enlightened by God, gets it and so renames him “Rock”; for it is upon his confession that the church would be built.
But then Jesus described the way of the Christ (God’s anointed savior) to his disciples, and Peter doesn’t like the script. Audaciously, Peter rebuked Jesus. In essence Peter said, “Jesus what is all this nonsense about suffering and dying. You’re the greater David. You’re the one who has come to conquer not suffer! ” The difference between rewriting the script of Superman and Jesus is that Superman is a comic book character; he’s fiction. Jesus is the Son of God. He is Lord. We don’t get to re-write his script to our taste. So, Jesus publicly rebukes Peter with the harshest words that he says to anyone, “Get behind me Satan!” Peter was acting the tempter and trying to turn Jesus from his Father’s mission.
Jesus’ mission was hard for Peter to swallow and it is hard for us to swallow as well. Jesus said, “I must die and, to follow me, you must die too.” True, we don’t lay down our lives for the sins of the world, but we do lay down our lives for Christ and for others. That is the script; to go on a death march of the self. Jesus said, to lose our life is to save it, but to save our life – to go after the world – would be to lose it. Jesus is the one who flipped the script on the story of the world. The Son of God must die, so that we who deserve to die might live. Only the Lord of all could change our story.
Are you willing to follow him on his march to the cross? Are you willing to lay down your life for Christ and his kingdom? -RG