February 25, 2024: Not the End of the Story

Desert in Judea to illustrate Jesus' temptation

Second Sunday in Lent

Not the End of the Story

We know that we need to savor “mountaintop” experiences (promotions, graduations, awards, etc.) because in due time we will descend from the mountain. Usually, we get time to celebrate before reality hits, but Peter didn’t get that luxury. A few minutes after his epiphany that Jesus was the Messiah, and after Jesus praised his insight, Peter was lambasted and called Satan. That was a pretty steep fall from grace! What had he done to deserve such a rebuke?

Peter did what I know I would have done. Peter expressed his absolute dismay and horror that Jesus—after acknowledging to the disciples that he was the Messiah—told his followers he was marching to certain death. This was an untenable proposition! According to prophetic writings, the Messiah was destined to be the warrior king. The Messiah was going to establish a new government, one founded on justice. Under the Messiah’s rule, Israel would regain its prominence and take its place as a favored nation. Rome would no longer have the power to terrorize and oppress.

It’s no wonder that Peter strongly objected to Jesus’ words. He didn’t know of the sweeping plan of salvation, encompassing all nations, redeeming the past, the present, and the future. He didn’t know the power of Jesus’ resurrection and the fresh winds of the Spirit on Pentecost. He didn’t know that thousands of years after his life ended, new life would continue to spring forth. Only God knew that Peter’s vision was too small. Peter’s vision encompassed one nation; God’s vision reaches all.

In this time of contemplation, let us reflect on the great mystery: Jesus’ death was intended to be the “end of the story”—executing him by the most painful, degrading means at the state’s disposal. And yet, throughout the ages, the cross has been a beacon of hope, a rest for the weary, and a path to the very throne of God.

Dawn E. Volpe, pastor,
Ephraim Moravian Church, Ephraim, Wisconsin