This weekend, we get “the rest of the story” – the second half of last weekend’s Gospel reading. As a review, it would be most helpful to read Matthew 16:13-28, the confession of Peter and the rebuke of Peter. What a contrast in these few verses!
In response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?,” Peter gives the great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus commends him calling his confession the rock on which He will build His church (v.16-17). But although Peter got the words right, he certainly didn’t understand what he was confessing. For in this week’s Gospel (v.21-28), Jesus begins to explain what it means that Jesus is “the Christ” – the Messiah, as Jesus clearly tells His disciples that “He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (v.21). But this was NOT what Peter had in mind for his “Christ” – Peter “got in front of Jesus” correcting Him and said, “This shall never happen to You!” (e.g. I don’t want a Savior who suffers and dies, I want a glorious Savior with no suffering nor death!) But “you can’t follow Christ from in front!” you always have to be “behind Him.”
To Peter’s objection, Jesus authoritatively said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men!” (Jesus commended Peter for his confession, but now calls him Satan – Satan was using Peter to tempt Jesus to give up the goal of suffering and dying in our place to give us the free gift of salvation. Satan can also work through Christian friends that we may have to tempt us away from following Christ too!) From the “rock” of Peter’s confession, not to be a “stumbling stone” to Christ and others… what a contrast!
Do we want to define our “Christ” as well? Do we have areas of our lives where we want to lead, rather than to follow? As we live in our world, we realize that it is more and more going the opposite direction of where Christ is leading. It is not easy to live in this world and truly follow Christ. That is why Jesus turned to His disciples (including Peter, you and me) and said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” (v.24) There are many times when “following” is hard – denying self and taking up our cross (any kind of suffering because we faithfully follow Christ).
The Good News is that just as Jesus called back Peter to “follow Me” – so also Jesus continues to call us back to Himself. Through confession and absolution we are given a new start again and again. Through the daily blessing of our Baptism (Josephine’s baptism was another good reminder of the blessings and promises of our baptism); God’s Word (as we regularly gather for worship and Bible Class / Sunday School on Saturdays and Sundays); and the Sacrament of the Altar (celebrated every weekend); God continues to strengthen us in our daily following Him as He faithfully leads us, guards and guides us through this life to our home in heaven. Don’t go anywhere without following Jesus!
If you haven’t signed up for a Bible Class for this next quarter – please do so. There are a number of choices – including some mid-week home Bible Studies and small group Bible studies that meet at church during the week. For more information, call the Church Office or see one of the information folders on the Bible Studies.
What a privilege to be following Jesus with all of you!
Pastor Dan Myers