"But why?" My four-year-old son, Jacob, asks me this all the time. Why can't we go to our fourth park of the day? Why can't we eat chocolate cookies for breakfast?
"Why do people die?" "Why did Jesus have to die?" There is plenty of bad news in our world today--gun violence, famine, terrorism, human trafficking, opioid addiction, teen suicide, hate crimes, unemployment, cancer, infant mortality--far too many more to name.
Peter sees the suffering in his world, too. Jesus has come to end that suffering and pain--to be the chosen Messiah. And Peter cannot conceive that Jesus will suffer, too. "It must not happen!" he cries. "Make it stop. This will not happen to you." Jesus reminds Peter and us it does no good to look upon a world full of suffering and say suffering cannot happen. For Peter and us it is already happening. But when we look to Jesus--when we fix our mind on God--we see a light of hope in the midst of suffering. It does not eliminate suffering, but it may transform what seemed so bleak into a ray of hope.
Lord Jesus, when I want to shut my eyes, to shut out the world, help me to see your light in the midst of a world in pain. Remind me that suffering happened even to you, as did the promised resurrection. Amen.
Matthew 16:21-28 (NRSV)
21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you."
23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27 "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.
28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."