Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (3 September)

Our Gospel passage today comes from Matthew Chapter 16

Verse 21 from today’s chapter marks a transition in Matthew’s story as Jerusalem and its events begin to loom large. Immediately after Peter’s confession from last Sunday, Jesus turns his attention to the cross – his own cross and the one appointed for each person who follows him. Matthew’s phrase “from that time on” suggests that the cross starts to make sense only in connection with knowing Jesus as “Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus “began to show” his disciples that suffering and death awaited him in Jerusalem. Rather than simply “telling” them or “explaining” it to them, he accompanied this crucial teaching on his mission with action, illustration, gesture, or physical demeanour. But amongst all of this, you have to hand it to Peter! How many of us would have the audacity to rebuke Jesus? Having just been given the “keys to the kingdom” with the power to bind and to loose, Peter seeks to use his newfound sense of authority to bind Jesus! “God forbid it, Lord!” You cannot go through the tears and the sweat, the blood, and the mess of humanity, because you are God – you have to save us! But Jesus issues a startling response! Jesus makes it clear he is living into and reinterpreting his identity as Messiah by suffering and dying with his people. Jesus shows that he is the good shepherd who lives with, leads, and feeds his sheep, heals their wounds and is willing to lay down his life for them. If we want to follow him, then we are also going to have to bleed, weep, sweat and die. If we are going to become followers of Jesus, our first and foremost duty is our willingness to follow Jesus into the world and onto the cross. So, as the body of Christ, we participate in the ongoing message of Christ. Instead of binding Jesus for our own self-preservation, we must faithfully follow and bear witness to him. It is precisely in participating in this way of Christ’s body in the world that we find ourselves being resurrected to new life.