Navel Gazing | Matthew 16:21-28
We in the west have become a society of navel gazers. We gaze at our devices, our televisions, our phones. The world is something that happens on a tiny screen in our hands. We respond to small images of tragedy with tweets, and we post edgy comments on Facebook. If we are particularly moved, we send money, usually online.
We do not touch one another. We do not see one another.
Matthew tells us that Peter didn’t see the plan. He didn’t see how what Jesus was telling them could possibly be good. How could yielding ever be the best response? How could it be that God should choose to suffer? What could possibly be gained?
Society needed a good straightening out. People needed to see that God was more powerful than their oppressors. To Peter’s dismay, Jesus did not promise them any of that, at least not right away.
On the other hand, Jesus mysteriously claimed that some who saw him that day would live to see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. It must have sounded encouraging, but what did he mean?
The answer may be in the next verses—the utterly odd mountaintop story of Jesus being transformed. That must have been something to see. What is more, the resurrection itself was the headline kingdom of God event.
Nevertheless, Jesus wasn’t talking about the future. He was talking about the present, how we live our lives now.
The idea that we might lose something by holding onto it too tightly is old, but some old ideas are true. If our lives are only about ourselves, then we have lost them. If our wisdom is so small that it extends only to gaining wealth, then we are poor indeed.
We are in this world, just as Jesus was in this world, and Peter, and those other dimwitted followers. We remember them as extraordinary people, but they don’t appear that way in the gospel stories. How we live our lives depends on how we set our minds. If we think on ordinary things, we live ordinary lives. If we focus on the extraordinary, then our lives will also be extraordinary.
The truth is that life is always extraordinary. We just need to look up and pay attention.