The rock way is the cross way. That is the way of victory and liberation. The giving way of love. Anyone who tries to serve oneself, make oneself big and secure, is done for. The way of life is only the Christ-given life. No matter how much money we may make, no matter how big we may make ourselves or defend ourselves against God in the God spot we have taken over, we are lost, for we have blocked and destroyed our lives in which the living flow is outward, the giving way, the longing way, all the way, always on, forward, without termination. Sin offers terminations. “At this level, this size, you will be able to say, ‘I have made it. I have what I want.'” The offer is a lie, the opposite of life, the termination is death. Jesus rescues us from termination, from the mortal terminations, the levels, the size of self or achievement by which we would secure ourselves against every threat – even the threat of God, for this is deception, the no to life, with termination death.
As Jesus entered Peter’s home and work and brought with Him opportunities to serve, so He enters Peter’s death, the death of us all that we determine with our no to love, to live, to God. The prison of our mortal constructions, our ways of figuring things out, our ways of making ourselves big, defensed, and secure, our termination, our death. He enters them all. Jesus dies our death for us, the death that terminates the loving, giving life that flows from generous God. He bears our separation from God. Jesus suffers our hell, but hell and death cannot hold Him, for He never said yes to them. He did not sin. The sinless one takes what was coming to us by our sin. Jesus takes sin’s claim on us and suffers it through. For on Him sin had no claim. Because of Jesus’ taking it, sin can no more make claim on us. We are liberated from its claim and dominion, its death that we willed with our sin.
The smile that Jesus shared with Peter over the little kingdoms of this world He shares with us over all that would destroy us: sin, death, Satan, and hell. From their dominion we are free, kings, priests, a holy nation, God’s own people in the life that is always onward and more, without end. The rock of certainty is Christ. Even in our last glimpse of Peter, we see him still getting things wrong. He wanted to check out what our Lord had in store for John. Jesus gives him a friend’s straight answer, “That is not your business. Your business is discipleship. Follow Me.” Peter followed. Jesus had told him of the death with which he would glorify God.
Tradition tells that Peter never heard a cock crow without tears and that when they came to crucify him he asked for the upside down way of doing it, for he was not worthy to be crucified as his Lord in His crucifixion, the rock, the Calvary rock against which little Nero, nor sin nor death, nor the gates of hell can prevail. Peter confessed the Rock. He often slipped from the Rock, but the Rock carried him through. Lord Jesus, rock us too. Amen.
Norman Nagel, “Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel”, pages 276-277