There are many consoling things about a wake. One concerns the positive stories that are told by friends and colleagues of the deceased. These bring new insights to family members, and reveal things about their loved one that they had not known. They may include certain kindnesses, acts of friendship, loyalties, deeds of courage, sufferings. Such stories help to round off the image of the person. No matter how well we think we know a person, there is always another side, a new aspect, that can be revealed by a friend or stranger.
This is how it was with Peter. Peter figured he knew Jesus pretty well. He was the one who opened the ears of the deaf, restored sight to the blind, made the lame leap, fed the multitude with a few loaves of bread. He was the fulfillment of God’s dream voiced by the prophet Isaiah in last week’s scripture. Consequently, for Peter, the spokesperson, it was a no-brainer when Jesus asked the group, “Who do you say that I am?” Obviously, Jesus was the Christ. That Jesus’ words and deeds were proof of this, Peter could have gone on to explain, had he been pressed a little further on the issue. Peter was answering out of his knowledge of Jesus. But, Peter didn’t have the full picture.
This became clear when Jesus started to teach them about his rejection, suffering, death and resurrection. Peter was having none of that. This was not in his image for the Christ. It had no place in his package of beliefs. Jesus must have had it wrong, so Peter had to take him on the side and rebuke him. Jesus had to remind Peter that his way of thinking was still one-dimensional. Before he could understand, see the whole picture, Peter would have to think in another dimension, another realm, in the divine way. Then Jesus went on to tell the crowd that taking up the cross was an integral part of following him.
The image of the anointed offered by Isaiah in today’s first reading shows neither glamour nor glory. He is the rejected one, yet the one vindicated by God. Had Peter been steeped in this tradition, Jesus’ words would not have been so disturbing for him. Peter’s struggle with this image of the Christ continued, and was evident in the garden, in the courtyard, and on Calvary. Not until the Holy Spirit came upon him at Pentecost, did the whole picture fit together for Peter. Then he could enthusiastically proclaim the Christ.
We can all be like Peter, stuck in our perceptions and notions about Jesus, and perhaps even thinking we have the right answer. But the realm of God is vast and far beyond our understanding. So how could we even imagine that we can fully know God’s Christ? It is for us to give thanks for the broadening of our minds and souls to accept the daily revelations of the person of Jesus given us by the Spirit of God, leading us to a fuller picture.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP