Pew Sermon – Matthew 16:21-28

By this stage of Jesus’ ministry, it was clear to Peter and the other disciples that He was the Messiah, but they had yet to understand that He would not be the conquering king, driving all before Him, and expelling Israel’s enemies from the very land that God had given them.

When Jesus rounds on him so violently we hear echoes of His very human frustration; that Peter is still thinking in the old terms and not in the radical new way of Jesus and His rule of love, not power and vengeance.

Poor Peter! 

But Peter’s response is our response.

We don’t want Jesus to suffer either, we don’t want Him to die.

“God, forbid it Lord!” Pete says.

But Jesus knows that God will not forbid it; 

God will not cause His death but will not prevent it.

Because ‘free will’ given to humanity means that God, too, must watch a beloved child be put to death.

In art, Jesus is sometimes depicted in serene acceptance of His fate, almost smiling in some examples. 

And some people believe this interpretation of Jesus’ response to His fate, but really, this belies His full humanity.

Not only does He have to deal with His own feelings, but He has these underscored by Peter’s inability to understand and accept the full reality of what is to come.

Jesus didn’t really think that Peter was Satan but simply that this title represents everything that opposes truth and is allied to worldliness; not God’s Kingdom.

At the same time, Jesus does not want the natural anxiety and sorrow of the situation transforming into pessimism, the destructive disease of the soul.

The sister of reality is hope in Jesus’ message today.

There is a clear choice for us here. 

All disciples must be prepared for the worst as well as the best; this is the reality of our vocation.

We take up our responsibilities and accept the consequences, this is mature spirituality; this is dedicated commitment.

The good thing about facing reality is that it unlocks us from the prison of impotent, unending fear of unknowing, and frees us to make change, to move forward and live more fully.

Yes, it is scary at first; all freedom is frightening, because everything becomes possible when one has nothing to lose.

Jesus knew this.

He was prepared to risk everything and didn’t need Peter’s fussing, however well meant, or needy.

He wanted Peter to grow up and face the truth and then accept what was to come; what must come, so that he, and Jesus, could be free to pursue the next phase of their shared ministry.

Jesus knew that it was a crucial step on the way to the disciples learning from where they would eventually find the strength to found, and maintain, the future Church; from His example, but also from within themselves.

Facing reality, facing hope, rarely disappoints when we undertake it with Christ.