There is a great little moment in the last of the Lord of the Rings movies, the Return of the King, when Gandalf the White utters a simple phrase, “Hope is kindled.” He says this to acknowledge that the message has been sent from Gondor to Rohan, that aid in the fight against the enemy Sauron and evil is needed. Rohan under the lead of King Théoden will respond, but will they come in time and with enough strength to drive back the enemy?
I connect this with what we read this Sunday in the Gospel and through out the Scriptures about how God is coming to the aid of his people, whom he loves and how he deals with the separation that has been created between him and them. Which leads me to ask, do you know what the first question is in the Bible? It is God who asks Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”
In the moment when Peter announces that the disciples believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah we have a biblical moment when the flame is kindled and hope springs into the world. But then Jesus orders them to stay silent about it and with God reason. To announce the presence of the one who is going to upset the status quo and who is going to overthrow the government, is not helpful to what Jesus is trying to do and is dangerous for those who would bring such a message. It is ultimately why there is a confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish leadership which led to a conflict with Pilate. This in turn led to Jesus’ death on the cross. This too is a moment when hope is kindled. Jesus told them that he was going to be rejected, suffer and die and three days later, rise again. All Peter could he is that his dream wasn’t going to come true – that Jesus wasn’t going to be the kind of Messiah that he wanted him to be. After all, of what use is a dead Messiah?
Jesus, in rebuffing Peter, looks at his disciples before he says anything. He knows that what he says is going to be crucial. It is why, I think Jesus was so pointed and demanding. He insisted that Peter stop playing God and get with the program. He wanted Peter to follow and learn to lead, even if it meant learn to do it the hard way. Jesus does not have interest in claiming his royal seat through his bloodline. He is not interested in furthering a political agenda.
We are far off and away from God. It is why God asks the question of you, “Where are you?” Jesus came to find us and to bring us home. We are worried about failure. We worry about loss. What we need to start doing and to be aware of is what Jesus is asking of each and of all of us, so that we can together help to build the kingdom of God.
So maybe it is time that we follow Peter and with him get back in line. But let’s be clear, no disciple follows the Master on their own terms. You have a choice. You can live with and for Jesus and all that this means, including what St. Paul would call “light and momentary troubles”. Or you can live your life the way you want, at least for a time and then face an eternity without God on your own. It is totally your choice.
Jesus and his demands on his disciples are clear. He is not looking for men and women to become a band of martyrs. Martyrdom is a gift you can use but once and at the end of your life. Jesus calls you to live for him and that is why he calls for your surrender and submission. As the Scriptures remind us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4)
Because we seek to follow Jesus in this moment. Hope is kindled. Let’s get to it.