Megan (Malamood) Burdell ’19 M.Div. 

Right after Peter professes that Jesus is the Christ, he is rebuked. “You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do.” How was Peter thinking as a human? Imagine how we would feel hearing about Jesus’ impending suffering and death for the first time. This is the One for whom Peter had given up everything, including his livelihood as a fisherman. He was simply trying to protect the One he loved, just as any of us would do.

As sons and daughters created in the image of love, we are made to love, and we love deeply and fiercely. It is our natural human instinct to want to protect and keep from harm the ones we love, whether they are our spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends, or other family or community members. It is easy to empathize with Peter; he doesn’t want Jesus to suffer.

In response, Jesus’ rebuke may seem harsh, yet hidden in those reprimanding words is love for both Peter and for us. In reflecting on Jesus’ words, I imagine him implicitly saying, “You are reacting with incipient fear and panicking already, and you are not trusting me. Your ears and heart are not inclined towards eternal life or the belief that my suffering is not the end. Yes, trust me, even here—even in this situation that seems like the worst imaginable outcome.”

Denying oneself, taking up the cross, and following Jesus means relinquishing control to the depths of our hearts—even control of and care for our loved ones. While it is natural and good to protect those we love, we are ultimately not in charge. We must entrust them and ourselves to God, for God wants us to live in peace and trust, not fear.