We are told in our scriptures that Satan was waiting for an opportune time to trap the Son of God. We are reminded of the theme that runs through many of our modern action/adventure films, where the protagonist has to battle for survival against those who are out to get him or her. We are disturbed by films where despite where we seem to be heading, the hero does not realise their aim. Imagine if the shark had survived whilst the people perished in Jaws, imagine if Darth Vader never met his end. What is surprising about the Jesus-script is that his own death is his aim. The life of our central character does end and that is the very point of the drama but, of course, we also know as Christians that the real conclusion of the drama –is not the cross but the resurrection. The devil was defeated at Calvary but living in the inbetween times as we are, we await the completion of Christ's victory which will happen in the future.
In some ways, then, as Christians - we are mid-story but despite this we can always rely on resurrection hope.
It is because life comes out of death that we can know and experience hope in our own small daily deaths: some of them appropriate and that 'dying to self' that the scriptures call us into (and particularly at Lent) and sometimes those other little deaths we experience: betrayals, misunderstandings, broken dreams and unrealised aspirations. Because the very author of life brought life to us and experienced resurrection, we too can know that power in all those little daily deaths we experience.
There are amongst Jesus' own crowd those who will cause him the small daily deaths before the great crowd literally cries 'Crucify him!' These are the smaller betrayals along the way through characters such as Peter and Judas. Jesus deals then with one of the most difficult of tests: betrayal: the death or interruption of relationship. We will all have our own stories of relationships that have broken or are breaking.
Sometimes betrayal is deliberate as it was with Judas, sometimes it is accidental as it was with Peter, Peter thought he was advancing the cause rebuking Jesus about his going to the cross.He wasn't to know then it was the way to eternal life. That life always comes from death, seen literally in Christ's resurrection and also in the restoration of Peter and for all of us when we feel that all might be lost, is the promise that the scriptures explore this morning: a barren womb: Sarai's will populate the planet, a broken body: Christ's, will be for us the living bread, the brokenness of Peter will be overcome as he becomes the rock of the future church.
Peter who challenges Jesus today in our scriptures and just like Judas will go on to betray him becomes the very rock on whom the church is built. Before this mid-point place in Peter's narrative, Peter's story, he is running his fishing business in Capernaun on the sea. Decades after this moment that we explore together today, he is in the Capital City of the Roman Empire preaching the Good News to anyone he can find, seeing the power and the healings that we have read about in Acts, knowing how deeply loved he is by Christ. I am sure that never in Peter's wildest imagination did he ever think he would be so restored, so whole, so empowered especially today as we catch him mid-point, missing the point. Like many of us: When we began to follow Jesus we never imagined we would be where we are now … or better than that, who we are now! It is always best to identify yourself not by what you do but to whom it is you belong: God.
The Scriptures today, offer a Peter-story that is half way through, point us in the direction of future hope – Abram and Sarai are given new names and blessed with a multitude of descendants despite Sarai being unable to conceive, this hints too that the story of Peter will be one of hope restored, identity reshaped and purpose fulfilled: Peter will know blessing and power and a greatness in Christ even though at this point, this morning, his story is only half told and doesn't look too good.
What should this mean for us then? This being mid-story...
Perhaps we are challenged us to see ourselves better from God's perspective: if we think our story is the one that will always be so – this is not true – God sees us with long-range vision, he sees us, to borrow a friend's expression, through Jesus-tinted spectacles (quote: Lee Langford).
Our story, each and every one of us, is half told and God has plans for us, to prosper us and not to harm us. In our daily lives, where there are struggles, know that these things do not define you, the little daily deaths – the right dying to self and the sometimes painful betrayals by people or of hopes and dreams are not the end of the story – God has plans for your life and mine, to turn it all into good – to perhaps make from our woundedness a ministry to others where they hurt in similar ways, to perhaps teach us something about dependence on God, and sometimes even like Jesus on the beach with Peter in John 21 to simply ask us afresh if we love Him.
Do you love Him?
As with Peter on the beach he reminds you of his love for you by declaring afresh 'Seek and you will find my purpose for your life.'
Peter, despite his bumpy road, is the first person to hear, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you a fisher of men.”
Peter, despite his lack of judgment and frequent mistakes is the first person promised the keys of the kingdom.
Impetuous and cowardly Peter is the first person in the New Testament, like Abram and Sarai in the Old Testament to be promised transformation. “You are Simon, you shall be called Peter.” “Simon” “shifting sand” becomes Peter: Rock. Now there's a transformation into something very solid.
And so Jesus looks at “shifting sand,” and says, “in me become solid:” new but right identity will be given for this moment and this time.
And in your daily walk...
Let him be the colouring in for the rest of the picture.
Let him complete your half finished narrative.
As another friend of mine says, "The lamb wins in the end, you know."
We, thanks be to God, know the end of the story – Amen.