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Apotheosis



"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Joseph Campbell calls the next stage of the Hero's Journey the "Apotheosis".  This is the point in the story when the hero, after facing many trials, becomes something more.  It's not as simple as gaining strength or confidence, but often a recognition of something deeper and greater that had been dormant before. 

In the original Star Wars trilogy, there is a point at which Luke knows that Vader is his father, but he finds the strength within to resist.  He becomes willing to sacrifice himself rather than fall to the dark side.  He finds a strength within that had been dormant before, and he is never the same after that realization.  You can see the change in his character most clearly at the beginning of "The Return of the Jedi" when he walks into Jabba the Hutt's lair with complete confidence, the whiney boy that he had been was no more, the Jedi was born.

In Luke 25 we see Peter's journey through the stage of Apotheosis.  Jesus had predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed in the morning.  Peter was adamant that this would not happen, so when the soldiers showed up to take Jesus away, Peter stood up for his friend.  He drew his sword and lashed out at one of the soldiers.  Determined to stay with Jesus to the end, he cut off the soldier's ear in the scuffle.  Then Jesus did something strange.  Instead of fighting, or running, he told Peter to put the sword away, and he healed to soldier's ear.  When Jesus left in captivity all of the other disciples scattered, but not Peter, he would not deny his friend.  He followed behind them and tried to blend into the crowd.  During the trial, someone recognized him and drew attention to him.  When the crowd pressed in Peter responded by denying that he had ever even seen Jesus before.  That happened twice more, and after the third denial, Peter heard the rooster crow as the Sun crested over the horizon.  Peter was crushed and convicted that he had done exactly as Jesus had said, he had failed his master.  

After Jesus' resurrection, when meeting with Peter,  Jesus asked him three questions.  

Jesus asked, "Peter do you love me unconditionally?"

Peter responded, "Lord, you know that I love you like a friend."

Jesus asked, "Peter do you love me unconditionally?"

Peter responded, "Lord, you know that I love you like a brother."

Jesus asked, "Peter do you love me like a brother?"

Peter responded, "Lord, you know that I love you."

After this Jesus told Peter to take care of his sheep.  Notice a couple of things here.  First, Jesus was trying to stretch Peter's love to another level, but he was also willing to meet Peter where Peter was willing to go.  Second, notice that Jesus asked three times, allowing Peter to proclaim Christ as many times as he denied him.  From this point forward we see a very different Peter.  He finds a way to mix the impulsive fire he had with humility and wisdom and goes on to lead the early church.  He found in himself a new creature that had been there before, a dormant strength that had been waiting for the right time to come out.  The self-centered, impulsive, narcissist that Peter had been, was gone.  In his place was Peter the Rock, the disciple that led the Church through the most dangerous years of its history.  

What lies dormant in you?  Who were you always meant to be?  And, what are you waiting for?

God, help us to find the strength within.  Help us to be who you made us to be.  And, help us to call forth the strength from within those around us too.  Amen.  

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