Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 235)
Matthew 16:13-28 The Message
When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”
He swore the disciples to secrecy. He made them promise they would tell no one that he was the Messiah.
Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”
But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.”
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?
“Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.”
“Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.” “Deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me.” “Self-sacrifice is the way.” They are difficult words, but they are the entry-point to the kingdom. It is in self-denial, in considering others better than ourselves, that we truly live.
Experience teaches us that in helping others along we help ourselves, and reach a wonderful contentment in our own souls—a fact which shows clearly that we have an intimate connection with others, and that all progress is based on mutual help and service. We may count this as the rule of our very existence, for if we are self-centered and act in opposition to this rule, both we and our neighbors will find less joy in life, and through the conflict of our self-interests we will destroy one another. Let us take this principle of service as the Golden Rule of our lives, and “in love serve one another.” Without self-denial it is impossible to serve God, and, as we mentioned before…, we should first learn to live our lives with the Lord in secret, and learn the lesson of love while we sit at His feet. Then let us go out and love and serve our fellow-beings as we love our own selves. And in doing this we fulfill in our lives now the Purpose and Will of our Creator and Lord, and shall continue to fulfill it through all eternity.
—Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929)
Meditations on Various Aspects of the Spiritual Life