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There Must Be Another Way
September 3, 2023, 2:00 AM

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Peter may be the “rock” on which Christ will build the church (Matt. 16:18), but when Jesus reveals the suffering that will come first, Peter becomes a tempter and “stumbling block.” Assuming God must have a different way to save the world, Peter protests Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus explains to Peter and all his disciples that, in fact, this is the way to life—losing one’s life in order to find it.

By tempting Jesus to an easier way than his journey through suffering to resurrection, Peter personifies a temptation common to all generations of Jesus’ disciples: seeking a way to avoid “losing oneself,” instead of surrendering all to and with the one we follow. Rather than losing our lives—our selves, possessions, and time—we hold on more tightly, afraid of what will happen to our comfort, success, and identity if we let go. Those things we hold onto then become, like Peter, stumbling blocks along the way of self-giving love.

But while “saving one’s life” sounds sensible, those things also stand in the way of the new life into which Jesus beckons us to follow him. Perhaps Peter’s problem is that he sees only the suffering and death, without grasping the new life that comes through it. In times when we too are tempted by worldly ways of comfort and success, convinced that surely God must have an easier way than the way of self-giving love, this gospel reminds us that resurrection and life await on the other side of suffering and death.

This is the way of our God who becomes human in Jesus: emptying himself of power and dignity, losing his very own life for the sake of the world’s life. Seen through the lens of resurrection just ahead on the journey, what other way could there be?