Are We There Yet?
Are We There Yet?
It turns out the most dreaded question that can be asked during a car trip is also one of the most inappropriate questions a Christian can ask of themselves or others.
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Are we there yet?
The dreaded question by parent near and far while taking a trip with young children. We have all asked that question, though we may not remember it. And certainly, I imagine, we have all had that question asked of us. Whether it’s on a family trip, hiking through the Northumberland Hills or trying to make it through any other event.
Are we there yet?
The question, “Are we there yet?” is one which is wholly unsuitable for the Christian way of life. Though some may speak in language of conversion and salvation, as Christians we never arrive. Rather we continue to journey with Jesus. There may be an ‘aha moment’ where realization sets in. However, in my experience those ‘aha moments’ are followed by more. A formative book on discipleship is Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” Peterson indicates that the Christian never arrives but instead continues on a journey of obedience that lasts for one’s life.
Are we there yet, doesn’t fit the lexicon of the follower of Christ and that was something that Peter needed to learn and the lesson is scathing. “Get behind me Satan” is the rebuke.
So why is Jesus so harsh in his response? What’s going on here?
At its heart this passage is about two competing theologies. The one represented by Peter is a theology of glory. Christ has come to triumph, to topple the Roman Empire, and overcome all the evils of the world. The theology of glory is prevalent, it’s attractive. It says that because we are Christian’s we are the best and we are going to win. It could be viewed as a theology of dominance. You can find it in Christian music, new and old. Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on before…
This is where Peter is, except there isn’t a cross yet. Peter can’t accept the theology that Jesus is expressing and so he defaults to a theology of glory. What theology does Jesus express in this passage? A theology of suffering.
“…the Son of Man must suffer many things… be rejected, and he must be killed and after three days rise again. Jesus spoke plainly about this…” (Mark 8:31-32).
Clifton Black writes, “In no Gospel does Jesus say, ‘It is my responsibility to die for you, while you applaud my heroism.” Instead: The Son of Man is ordained by God to suffer, die, and be raised. And so are his followers. Are you coming?” (Clifton Black)
What is the price for following Jesus? A steep one, pick up your cross and follow.
The question ‘Are we there yet’ hardly seems appropriate.
The message of Jesus is not:
- believe in me and you will be made rich.
- believe in me and your life will be wonderful.
- believe in me and your good health will be assured.
The message of Jesus is pick up your cross and follow me. Lose your life to save it and the implication is that there will be suffering. It isn’t meant to be any easy road full of affluence.
Michael Chan puts it this way, “When God called a person to divine service, their lives were often marked by suffering, loss, and pain. Think of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Moses, Samuel, and Jeremiah, to name just a few. Truth-telling and faithful living are rarely popular vocations, and they often land even the most eloquent and persuasive among us in hot water or worse.” (Michael Chan)
At this point you may be thinking, that’s great Neil, are we there yet?
How does this matter to us or how do we apply this to our lives? What impact does or should this have on us? Where does it leave us?
As followers of Christ we live in the Good Creation that God has offered to humanity and which has turned its back on God’s Word, found in Christ. Jesus knew it and says as much in our passage today. We know it today, though as Christian’s we’d like to think otherwise. But that’s just us thinking we’ve arrived.
Peter can’t tolerate the idea that Jesus will suffer and die. He’s the Messiah, how could that possibly happen? Peter is working on an assumption of Messiah that doesn’t align with what Jesus has taught nor about his purposes. Peter is concerned with the very real and temporal problems that are facing the people with Roman occupation and Jewish leaders (Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees) complying with this for their own gain. All very real concerns and ones which Jesus addressed, but Jesus knows that the corrective step isn’t to match force with force, but rather through suffering and death demonstrate another way forward. To ultimately show that death has no power where God is concerned.
Except Jesus doesn’t end here, Jesus doesn’t just stop with his own death. He goes further and tells the disciples these things will apply to you to. Want to follow me, pick up your cross. Want salvation, be willing to loss your life for me and everything that entails.
In Mark’s gospel we are told that to follow Jesus is to lose ourselves in him. That only through that loss do we find the life that God intended for us. It isn’t about arriving, it’s about living. Fully. Not life as we live it, day in and day out. But life with great meaning. Life in full participation with God.
Richard Rohr writes about what that might look and feel like, “The good news of an incarnational religion, a Spirit-based morality, is that you are not motivated by any outside reward or punishment but by participating in the Mystery itself. Carrots are neither needed nor helpful. “It is God, who for God’s own loving purpose, puts both the will and the action into you” (Philippians 2:13). It is not mere rule-following behavior; rather, it is our actual identity in God that is radically changing us. Henceforth, we do things because they are true and loving, not because we have to do them or because we are afraid of punishment.” (Richard Rohr)
That is picking up your cross and following Christ as he asked his disciples to do. That is saving your life by losing it to Christ. To allow God’s identity in you to radically change you. And if God is working through you and radically changing you, then be careful about asking the question ‘are we there yet?’ Because God is rarely done working in and through us. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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