"Dear Jesus... Dear Peter..."
March 4, 2012
I am writing this letter to inform you that I hereby resign as your disciple. This afternoon’s outburst was too much. And to call me Satan in front of all the others! I’ve had it.
I guess you don’t understand that I care about what happens to you. You're a dreamer. Why you're the type who would go running right to
- run right to the gallows. Then where will the Kingdom be? Can't
you see you need people like me to look out
for you? To protect the interests of our movement? Jerusalem
Just like your telling the rest of us to keep our mouths shut about the healings and exorcisms you do. People appreciate your humility. I find it one of your more attractive qualities. Luckily, James and John and I understand it's just your modesty and we spread the word anyway. And keeping us quiet about these astounding things you do is irrelevant anyway. The folks you help are so ecstatic, they blab it all over the place. After all, a blind man goes home and he can see; he's got to give some explanation.
Perhaps what hurt me most this afternoon was that I got no real recognition for having been right about who you are. You are the Christ, the Messiah, aren't you? I'm not at all sure why the idea came to me. Certainly the crazy way you act sometimes should convince me you're not. But when you confronted us with the question, "Who do you say that I am?" it hit me all of a sudden, with power: "You are the Christ." Why it hadn't struck any of us before is obvious. You don't act like a Messiah is supposed to act.
You squabble with respectable people and then turn around and make friends with poor folks, and with sinners: con men, prostitutes, unwed mothers, adulterers, scoundrels.
But it did come clear to me today. You are the Messiah. I know it. It came to me 'out of the blue,' as it were. I still don't understand how it can be. It doesn't make a bit of sense to me, but it's true. I can feel it in my bones.
And then, on the one hand you tell me that I am the rock on which you will build your church, and that you give me the keys to your kingdom, but then you go and say don’t tell anyone you are the Christ. You are too confusing to be a good leader.
And then all this talk about suffering and dying. That's no way for the Christ to talk! Where's your faith? You tell us to trust God and then you come back at us with all this doom and gloom.
Jesus, you're never going to get anywhere inviting people to carry crosses. You are a visionary, an idealist, and that's great. But you've got to be practical, too. If you're the Messiah, all the more reason to stay away from
at least for the time being. Get some more followers first, then you can deal from a position of strength. Jerusalem
And you tell me I'm not on the side of God? You're the one who'll go and get the Messiah killed. Well, I don't want any part of it. I'm through. And you'll lose the rest of the disciples if you keep talking this crucifixion rubbish You'd better remember who your friends are. I'll be gone by the time you read this.
Peter read through the letter, seeing if he might add anything. He folded it up and left it where he knew Jesus would find it.
Sure enough, as Jesus woke early the next morning for prayer, he found Peter's letter and he began to read. He smiled to himself and then began to write.
You write to me saying I don't understand how much you care about what happens to me. But Peter, I do understand that. I see into your heart more clearly than you see into mine. I too, care what happens to me... too much I care.
Your rebuke of me, to flee my fate of suffering, tempted me, my friend. Just like Satan tempted me in the wilderness as I began my ministry. I was in danger from your words.
It would be a wonderful thing, would it not, to continue to travel through
together healing the sick and casting out demons. This is a good work we are
But the Son of Man is not called only to this work. A greater work lies ahead. And Peter, I write you honestly, I am able to do this only by the Spirit's strength. Your enticing words make it ever so much more painful.
You write that you want me to give you some assurance that you were correct - that I am the Messiah, the Christ of God. But at the same time, you say you feel it in your bones. What word of mine could add or take away from this sense within you? You have been with me all this time. What would a mere word from my lips change? You have already received a message from my life and the Spirit has confirmed it.
Your problem is not with what I say or do not say about the Messah, the Christ. This would not put you at ease. Instead your problem lies in what you take the Christ to be. You look for the Messiah, the Christ to be a successful ruler of our nation who will save
like King David did. Israel
But the Lord is doing a new thing. In weakness, God will show strength; in suffering, God will prepare love; in shame, God will shine forth in glory. The Son of Man will be crucified, yes. He will not be the first. He will not be the last. But in that suffering death, God will reach out to suffering humanity, in oneness with them. In the mystery of the cross, God's very self will share the suffering of all victims of crucifixions, of every cruelty and every act of abuse.
I do not think you heard me yesterday when I said, "And after 3 days, the Son of Man will rise again." The crucifixion will not be the end of our story, dear Peter. It will only be the beginning. God cannot be defeated by the evil of the cross. God's victory will be real. The powers of this world will try to convince you that the cross is the power of death, but I tell you , my friend, you will come to see in it, the power of a love that conquers death.
The powers of this world try to keep us worrying - fretting about this and that: the strength of our movement, the plans of the religious rulers, whether we have enough bread for supper. The powers of this world try to frighten us with crucifixion and death, thinking they will turn us away from the calling God has for us. And I'll tell you a secret, my friend. I am frightened. I pray that somehow we will not have to carry this through. It is a frightening thing to face the cross. But many things in this life are frightening. It is a frightening thing to ask for forgiveness. It is a frightening thing to come back when you've gone away. Sometimes it is frightening to reach out to help another. It's even frightening to receive help sometimes.
But just as you, Peter, have this sense about who I am, I have this assurance that God will not fail us, now or in
. You and I live in a world of fear.
And with good reason. We
get hurt. We have needs that go unmet. You
and I have seen the crowds that come to us carrying such a heavy burden of
suffering. We know we could so easily
be in their place. We know that life is fragile. Living in the midst of such uncertainty, feeling so
vulnerable... it can breed in one selfishness, a meanness does it not? Such insecurity keeps us from
finding our true selves because
we are so busy searching for security. Jerusalem
Instead, Peter, let us learn to speak of living in the presence of God, rather than in the presence of the world. For when we begin to live in God's presence, we begin to know God's love that transforms the heart, by the Spirit.
Peter, I trust God because I live in God's presence each moment. I know God's care. I know God's forgiving love. Only in this way, can I begin to take up my cross. I can give myself for others, because I know that I am God's. I know the Lord will never abandon me. I know that God will be with me.
I would also like you to be with me, Peter. But perhaps you cannot come just now. You will have to judge that for yourself. Whether you stay away or return, remember you have a place in my heart. May the peace of God be with you, my friend, however the Spirit leads.
Perhaps you find such a letter from Jesus in your own heart. Maybe some part of you has fled from Jesus in anger, or in fear or frustration. Jesus would like you to be with him. Perhaps you feel you cannot be just now. But I tell you today, in Jesus' name, you have a place in Christ’s heart.
May the peace of God be with you, however the Spirit leads. Amen.