21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
I rather like the corny story from the trenches of World War I. A new recruit comes down the ladder into the muddy, rat infested swill that is to be his new home. A seasoned infantryman, a Woodbine clenched between his teeth, snarls at the recruit through the plume of smoke, “So, did you come here to Die?”
“Naw“, whines the cockney, “I got here yesterdaay!”
It seems that Jesus our battle hardened leader is asking all of us who enlist to follow him into the trenches of transformation, “Have you come here to Die?“.
I am fully convinced despite the protestations of my Fundamentalist opponents, that Jesus did not come into this human incarnation simply to die, he came to love. However, he was not afraid of death and when it became clear, after what had happened to John the Baptiser, that the world of his day was not going to tolerate any challenges to the moral, social, political, or economic statii quo; he had to face up to the reality that death may well be the end point of his life’s direction and calling.
Now we may, as Westerners be the most death denying culture on the planet, but what Peter receives his rebuke from Jesus for is not denying death as much as trying to avoid it. I think the same is true for most of us as modern day disciples. We don’t mind the idea of death and sacrifice as much as we mind when it won’t come on our terms and in our time frames. “We will follow you Jesus, but can we negotiate the schedule?” Jesus won’t abide that negotiation.
I know we don’t cope well with the, “Get behind me Satan” part of the narrative and I for one, am happy to re-translate the words as, “Get out of the way you opposing energy” , for isn’t that really the greatest threat to our transformation into Christ? Far more real than some devilish character from Dante’s Inferno?
It is the nub of the willingness wilfulness axis isn’t it? The willingness to allow our false self to die so that the True Self, the Christ Self the archetypal constellation of all that brings divinity into every corner of the cosmos, can begin to manifest in us and our communities.
Speaking of Dante’, It’s been a hell of a week for me. Abuse of authority by clergy, money lust, rebellion by, and disappointment at the people who call themselves by that divine name of Christ. The reason it has all been so exhausting is I have seen in the outer manifestation of these oppositional energies almost identical forms of the inner infernal abuses of my own life. Lusts, rebellion and disappointments against truth. If I cannot let these wilful energies be crucified on the cross I carry daily, where will I find the willingness to surrender my satanic opposition to the Christ who wants me to become like him?
This life I am trying so hard to preserve is the life of an unwilling rebel who needs to die. No wonder St. Francis of Assisi called his body, “The Donkey!” The life Jesus wants to transform me into is a willing sacrificially giving conduit of compassion and that is the very thing my selfish Satan energy opposes at every turn
So yes I have come here to Die. Just like yesterdaay, and every daay!