As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Ah, Peter. It’s hard not to love him. He is, above all other things, honest. When he perceives that Jesus is more than a miracle worker or prophet but God’s anointed Messiah, he can’t keep it secret but bursts forth in confession. And when Jesus teaches that God’s Messiah must suffer and die, Peter is appalled and can’t keep that secret either. And now, having listened not only to Jesus’ exchange with the rich man but also his talk of wealth, poverty, and the kingdom, Peter again can’t help but burst forth in another moment of unedited candor: “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
But what does he mean? Does he wonder why Jesus is warning them about the dangers of wealth when they clearly don’t have any? I mean, fishermen were about as high on the social ladder in the first century as they are in the twenty-first. Or is he trying to pull Jesus’ attention back to their need. “Look, Jesus, enough of all this. Whatever that guy chose, we chose you?” Or maybe after hearing about the impossible possibility of salvation he hopes to claim just a small part of the kingdom Jesus proclaims: “Keep in mind, Lord, that we’ve done just what you’ve asked – we’ve left it all behind in order to follow you.”
Truth be told, we can’t know what Peter meant in this moment of candor. We can only note that he could not keep silent any longer but needed to reassert the devotion he and his compatriots feel for Jesus.
And yet Jesus interrupts him. At least that’s how I read this particular sentence structure. After all, it says that Peter began to say. And, afterward, continues, “Jesus said….” Could it be that Peter had more to say but that Jesus cut him off? If so, why?
I think it’s because Jesus loves Peter as much as he loved the rich man.
Sometimes we hear Peter’s words as we are prone to interpret the rich man’s words about keeping all the commandments: as prideful boasting. But I don’t think Peter is bragging here. I think that, like the rich man, he is pointing to what he has experienced, what he has done, even what he has accomplished and hoping against hope that it’s enough.
But as we’ve already seen, it’s never about “enough.” When it comes to the kingdom of God, there is no enough. Not enough deserving. Not enough earning. Not enough wanting. There is only God. And God’s love, finally, is so much more than enough that the word hardly makes sense anymore. And so before Peter can go any further into the realm of scarcity with talk about what he and others have done or not done, with concerns about enough, Jesus interrupts him.
Being interrupted isn’t pleasant. It’s not fun. It feels, actually, rather rude. But Jesus interrupts Peter anyway. Why? Because the path Peter is about to go down leads only to insecurity, and Jesus has come to replace insecurity with acceptance, to exchange concerns about wealth with eyes that see the need of neighbor, and to shift from concerns about enough to delight in God’s unimaginable abundance.
Jesus interrupts Peter. Might he also be doing the same to us? What has happened in your life of late that might feel intrusive, disruptive, unwelcome, but might in fact be God interrupting us, keeping us from a path that leads only to death when God wants so desperately to give us life?
Prayer: Dear God, so often we run ahead, heedless of your grace and mercy, clinging to what we have been told grants life. Pull us away from the pursuit of vain things, and help us to hear your disruptive call to abundant life in the challenges and interruptions we face this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.