Second Sunday of Lent
Readings for this day:
Genesis 17.1–7, 15–16; Psalm 22.23–end; Romans 4.13–end; Mark 8.31–end
Leonard Nimoy has died. As an actor, he defined the role of Mr Spock in Star Trek, creating both the hallmark Vulcan sign of greeting, and the phrase “Live long and prosper.”
Peter, as a follower of Jesus, wanted long life and prosperity for his leader – and probably for the people and himself. It seems reasonable! Yet Jesus gave his followers a forecast of short life and ignominy. In challenging this, Peter walked into the famous rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan.”
Interestingly, the word in Greek for “get behind” is the same one as for “follow me.” And for Peter to be called Satan is not so much a devilish description as a reminder of the tempter, who works from without and within as an accuser – often presenting challenges that seem very reasonable in secular terms, but not in the world that Jesus presents as God’s kingdom. The rebuke to Peter is to remind him that as a disciple, he needs to follow and learn, not presume to take care of – or accuse – Christ.
The disciple’s journey is one of patient humility and open acceptance of the idea that God’s way just might be different from, and greater than, most human ways. Some disciples manage to follow this path, and are revered as saints: for example, David, patron of Wales (celebrated today), is remembered for gentleness and humility.
In all this, there is no guarantee of success or glory for the disciples. Instead, Jesus asks them, and us, to consider what we are working for. Does it give us life – the true life that Christ reveals? Are we seeking to follow Jesus, or to gain the world for God’s glory – or our own?
To live long and prosper in the realm of Christ is out of this world in one sense, but not in outer space. The long life that Jesus brings is eternal, and the prosperity that he offers is not of this world. Reframing Mr Spock’s greeting in this context gives it a radical reinterpretation: may eternal life and God’s will prosper in each of us. LLAP!