It is really easy to throw good old Peter under the bus. He’s always the perfect foil to Jesus’ goodness, wisdom, and gentleness. He’s Dumb-as-a-Box-of-Rocks Peter as he sinks in terror after taking a few steps atop the water. He’s Sword-Wielding-Maniac Peter in the Garden on the night Jesus is betrayed. He’s I-Don’t-Know-the-Man Peter around the charcoal fire early on Good Friday morning. In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, we have another chance to poke fun at Quick-to-Talk-and-Slow-to-Listen Peter as he takes Jesus aside to rebuke him for the whole “I’m going to be handed over, killed, BUT ON THE THIRD DAY RISE AGAIN!” thing.
But here’s the thing. I’m not sure how unreasonable Peter’s response is. Think about it. If you were in his shoes. If you had given up everything to follow Jesus around the Judean countryside, had finally started to piece together that he was more than just a great Rabbi and a Prophet, but the long-awaited Messiah, wouldn’t you want Jesus to hush up with the “I’m fixin’ to get killed” talk? Over at the Center for Excellence in Preaching, Scott Hoeze offers a perfectly reasonable, and well worded, explanation for Peter’s response.
“If Peter was a reflection of the other disciples, then they had collectively concluded – or started to conclude at least – that Jesus was no less than the long-promised Messiah of God, the Anointed One, the Chose One, the Christ who would make all things new. That’s no small thing to suspect of someone! And it carries with it some expectations that are a little on the galactic side.”
Peter’s expectations are on the galactic side, and if we are honest with ourselves, ours would be too. In all actuality, Peter is being utterly reasonable, which is what makes this story so powerful. God’s love surpasses all human understanding. His plan for the salvation of the world has included Abraham and Sarah, both well beyond the reasonable age of procreation; Moses, a murderer turned shepherd; and David, an adulterous king who used a war to kill his pregnant mistresses husband. Why, then, are we surprised that ultimately, God chose to send his only Son to show us what Kingdom living actually looks like, and that in doing so, he’d end up dying at the hands of the powers-that-be?
God does extraordinary things out of his love for us, and sometimes they are wildly incomprehensible. Peter raised concerns. All reasonable human beings would, but God is beyond reason because God is concerned first and foremost with love.