Fresh off his stunning success of identifying Jesus as the “anointed One, the Son of the living God;” Peter is convinced that he has, for the most part, figured out this discipleship thing. That is until Jesus says something so preposterous it startled Peter. Peter is convinced that there are those times when Jesus suffers from message drift. Jesus means well, but he has so much to say that there are times when He says things that just do not need to be said. This is not an uncommon fault for a political leader. Some things Jesus says just doesn’t help the brand they are developing. The lectionary passage for this Sunday is one of those. Jesus begins to teach the disciples that He would have to go to Jerusalem, be tried by the religious leaders, undergo great suffering and then crucified, but good news he would be raised three days later. That was enough. If Jesus insisted on such teaching, all people were going to hear is the suffering and death. Not great selling features.
Peter wanted a discipleship experience that was all about the victory parade. Suffering was not a part of Peter’s plan. Suffering was something to do away with and a leader who could promise a life with little or no suffering would have great appeal to everyone. Peter needed to come to terms with the fact that Jesus never came to lead a political take over. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the living God came to change the individual heart from hate to love. Jesus came to rule the individual heart as opposed to countries or systems.
I am reading John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul. He is very clear that the suffering is a part of our discipleship process. Suffering cannot be avoided. In fact, John of the Cross says that the challenge of suffering is to see it as a gift from God. According to John of the Cross, we are being entrusted with something special that will draw us closer to the heart of God. He goes so far to say that our attempts to avoid the inevitable suffering is an indication of a faith that needs some growing and some strength. That is where a soul friend, a spiritual director comes in. A Soul friend helps one see the struggle, recognize God’s strength and presence and in time claim the growth. You see a victory parade always requires a battle to celebrate.