How, then are we to understand this week's Gospel scripture, Matthew 16:21-28, in which Jesus, on the threshold of his fatal return to Jerusalem, invites Peter (not-so-politely, it must be said) to shut up and hold on tight? Here's the actual scripture according to the N.I.V.
Jesus Predicts His Death21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
There is no escaping it, this is not Jesus giving Peter an e-ticket to the happiest place on earth. It is a solemn, heart-wrenching moment in their relationship in which the Son of Man looks his good friend, Peter, in the eye and says, "Don't try to talk me into anything I know I cannot and must not do." Or, even worse. He might be saying "If you're not for me, you're agin' me." Any way you read it, it's not joyful. It's scary, yes. It's fatalistic, certainly. But how can we imagine that the same Jesus who speaks in this way to Peter is the one who also inspires the Westminster Catechism, a teaching embraced by all protestant churches who claim England as the "Old Country" of their faith?
Tune in Saturday night for the answer. Hint: Think about Popeye.