Perhaps you are one of the blessed few who are entirely content with their appearance. Perhaps you never stand in front of the mirror, as I did this morning, wondering as you take in the image before you, “Why didn’t God improve on that?”
While we’re at it, why didn’t God make you smarter? Stronger? More creative? More insightful? More wonderful in every way?
If, like some irritating friends of mine, you happen to be reasonably good-looking, talented, prosperous, healthy, and happy, asking such questions could seem downright greedy. But lots of us are obviously lacking in one or more of these zones.
Or so it would seem.
But in the kingdom of God, things are not always as they appear.
Jesus is pausing with his disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi. He asks them how he is currently viewed by the populace, and the response seems very promising: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matt. 16:14).
One would think a rabbi couldn’t do any better, but Jesus then asks the disciples their opinion.
Peter, one of those keen pupils who instantly sticks up his hand whether he knows the answer or not, replies at once: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
For once, Peter is right, and Jesus blesses him. But “then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”
This is a bit disappointing. Peter finally gets an answer right, and he can’t tell anyone? In fact, he gets The Answer right and he can’t tell anyone? Why in the world not?
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (v. 21).
Jesus connects his messiahship, his appointment as the very Instrument of God, with suffering and death … and at the hands of the very people who ought to be his strongest supporters, the religious leaders of the people of God.
This shockingly contradictory idea provokes another outburst from Peter, which Jesus stifles and sets in order. But soon after that, things get even stranger.
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