First, It Has to Get Ugly
Matthew 16:21-23 | By Gayle Boss
February 28, 2023
“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering … and be killed and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but of men.’” Matthew 16:21-23
Before it’s beautiful and blooming, spring is an ugly, even violent season. Snow goes gritty. Melting, it exposes the wreckage of winter: the crushed bodies of plants, animal remnants decomposing, detritus of human life lost or abandoned. One March I found, lying beside plastic grocery bags, the soggy body of a fox. A friend surmised that if we could hear crocuses pushing up through still-frozen ground we’d hear them groaning like a woman giving birth. It’s true of every renewal project. Before the kitchen shines with new cabinets, appliances, and tile, the old have to be ripped out.
On the way to a replaced heart valve or repaired ACL, the body has to be cut open; it bleeds and swells, pained. Of course, we resist. In Lent, or anytime, we’d like to sit in the gallery seats and watch Jesus walk the road of suffering alone. He did it for us, didn’t he?
For every living thing, the way to new life routes through loss, usually painful. Hard husks have formed around our hearts; they need to be stripped off for the seeds inside to germinate. Our ground is frozen and littered with trash. Asleep in the late-winter dark like many other mammals, we’re weak, depleted.
Jesus wants companions on the way to Jerusalem. His scathing retort to Peter is meant to startle his friend awake, to strip him of the protective husk around his heart that resists suffering and of the scales that blind him to the sacred pattern: new life rises out of loss. Always. Awake, scoured clean, we’ll have the courage to accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, and, like the women, to stay with him at the cross. We’ll go with them to the tomb—but we’ll go expecting resurrection.
Prayer: Ever-loving God, in your mercy, wake us. Strip us of our fear and its illusions so that we can walk with you wherever life takes us, expecting, because of your faithfulness, resurrection.
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