Genesis 46–48, Psalm 16, Matthew 16
The tragic haunts every human life. We all have to cope with mortality, loss, and failed relationships. Learning to cope with the difficulties of life can be a challenge. One important feature of Scripture is the way in which the tragic is recognized. Embedded in the famous and familiar story of Joseph, we see the human family in all its complexity. In today’s reading, a father is reconciled to a son he thought dead, and a brother forgives the rest of his siblings and provides land for the family to occupy. The drama is intense. Underneath the text is deep hurt and pain—a feeling that to an extent we all recognize.
Our gospel weaves together the tragic with Christian hope. The tragic is captured in the anxieties around having sufficient food to eat (after all, the disciples did not bring along any bread) and the predication from Jesus that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Christian hope is captured in the powerful confession of Peter. Jesus in so many ways did not fit the classic Messianic expectations, but Peter gets it right and tells Jesus that he is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” The tragic is intermingled with the hope— indeed, the hope partly depends on the tragic coming to pass.
Scripture does not evade the reality of suffering. Like the psalmist, we pray for God’s protection but know that such protection cannot mean a pain-free life or a promise of uncomplicated relationships. Instead, protection means that we trust that God will be with us in the difficult times. It means that God supports us through the complexities of our relationships. It means that we find grace and hope even in the moments of deepest despair.
Reflect on the tragic in your life. Search for the moments of grace embedded in those tragic seasons.
Reflect on the question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Who is Jesus for you?
Loving God, we pause and remember the tragic moments in our lives. We offer the pain of those moments to you. Please enter into those memories and allow your hope and your grace to be present. Help us, loving God, to cope with all the challenges of being human. In Christ we pray. Amen.
-The Very Rev. Ian Markham
Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary