I want to spend some time this Lenten season reflecting how we naturally walk with Mary and Peter to the Cross, to Easter and then on to Pentecost. When I wrote The Real Mary, the one theme that came home to me was this: to follow Mary is a walk to the cross. She’s an excellent subject (as is Peter) for a journey through Lent. I begin with this:
Mary is more than a Christmas creche figure; Peter is more than an example of a disciple doing goofy things. Both are profound examples of the mind-numbing challenge first century Jews had with embracing a crucified Messiah. Not just the “idea” of a crucified Messiah, but the real one himself: Jesus. Nothing normal in Jewish expectation prepared Jews for the notion that the Messiah would enter into his reign through a crucifixion. That story is told more by Mary than Peter, but their stories are nearly identical. It is a pity that we Protestants have ignored Mary (whose Magnificat reveals messianic expectation) and permitted Peter to reveal the first century struggle with a crucified Messiah.
Pick up your Gospels, find the stories about Mary and Peter, and watch them unfold with me. Here’s the big picture. If you are thinking about them through Lent, I’d love to hear your thoughts… but you don’t have to be doing those things to chime in.
If we walk with Mary, we will find a woman who is visited by angels, filled with prophetic words about what God will do through her Son, informed of her Son’s suffering, and who year-in and year-out pondered just how in the world her Son would become the Messiah. She grew year-by-year in her perception, and her growth actually mirrors our own: struggling with a crucified Messiah is our story, too. She came to terms with a crucified Messiah, but she came to it honestly: she struggled with Jesus.
If we walk with Peter, we will find a man who encountered Jesus early, who was called to be a disciple at the very beginning, who became a prominent leader among the apostles, but who also — not unlike Mary — thought a crucified Messiah was an unacceptable and unbiblical idea. Peter, too, struggled with the cross and with a Jesus who thought his end would be on a cross.
Lent might be a time for us to ponder how we, too, struggle with the Cross. But, once we find ourselves on Easter morning gazing at the Risen-after-Crucified Messiah, we learn the struggle was worth it. Join me on Mondays for a new series, a Lenten series: “On the Way to the Cross (with Mary and Peter).”