Monday of Trinity 19 – Matthew 16:13-28

| October 26, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Batman TV seriesMatthew 16:13-28

One thing’s for sure: contrary to what atheists would have you believe, heaven will definitely not be boring!

I say this because even in this life God is constantly desiring to show us new things and take us to the next level.  I’ve discovered that I went through 3 phases of watching the Batman TV show made in the 60s.  When I was a little kid, I wanted to be Batman.  I had a Batman cowl, a Batman TV shirt, the coolest electronic Batman game, and once I even had a bowl of Batman ice cream that I remember as being different psychedelic colors.  I liked Batman because he was a hero.  When I was a little older, I thought Batman was a show for little kids and not nearly as good.  And when I became a young adult, I saw all sorts of campy things that made the show enjoyable again.

I’m constantly discovering new levels of reading the Bible, and one of my not so secret missions in writing Give Us This Day is to learn to see things I haven’t seen before.

We do get bored, even with God, in this life.  But contrary to this life, in heaven, we’ll give up ourselves and complacency and toys, and we’ll want to go to the next level that God is willing to take us to.

As a teacher, I’ve always wanted to take my students to the next level that they were ready for and desired.  Jesus, being the perfect Teacher, takes His disciples, particularly Peter, to a dramatically new level today, not once, not twice, but four times.

In His first teaching, Jesus tests His disciples to see what they already know.  It’s not clear in the Gospels exactly how clearly He had taught His disciples the answer to the all-important question He’s about to ask.  Often, He seems to prefer teaching by example, and by leading His disciples with parables.  He begins by asking an easier, warm up question that establishes a context for the all-important question and implies a distinction between those who answer this question in different ways.

“Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
They tell Him that some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

And then Jesus asks part 2 of the question: “But who do you say that I am?”

It’s interesting that Jesus asks all of the disciples, but it’s Peter who answers.  Peter’s justly famous answer is: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus immediately calls Peter blessed, but not in exactly the way we might expect.  Why does Peter answer, and not the others?  It could be because he’s always the impetuous one.  But Jesus has a different answer.  He calls Peter blessed because flesh and blood has not revealed this to him but the Father in heaven.

Peter gets an ‘A’ on this assignment.  This was not merely a test of his ability to memorize that Peter had passed: he had to demonstrate some original (even if it did come from God) thinking about who Jesus was.   He made explicit what had been implicit: he had internalized what Jesus had been teaching.

Most of us teachers would have been overjoyed and stopped there.  But not Jesus.  He pushes Peter further and in his second teaching plants some seeds.  Continuing with His theme that revelation and salvation are from God, Jesus announces to Peter that he now has a new name: Peter, or “Rock” (maybe better: “Rocky.”)  On this Rock, Jesus will build His church.  Furthermore, Jesus will give him the keys to the kingdom.

But these are things that haven’t happened yet.  The same God who revealed that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God must also have foretold these things about Peter.  Jesus was greater than Peter first imagined Him to be, and now Peter is told that he will also be greater than he imagines himself to be.

We know how Peter’s story turns out and who he turns out to be.  But take a look at the very next story of Peter, and imagine that it is this person about whom Jesus says He will build His church.

The third lesson Jesus teaches is when His teaching takes a dramatic new turn.  Now that the disciples, led by Peter, understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus wants to take them further.  “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (verse 21).

Now that the disciples have understood that Jesus is the Messiah, He must show them who the Messiah really is, and so He begins to teach about the Suffering Servant.  It was difficult enough to get the disciples to understand that He really was the Messiah, the Son of God, but now He has more to teach.

But this teaching doesn’t seem to fit with what the students have just learned.  Say it ain’t so!  Peter, the star pupil, gets up and takes Jesus aside and rebukes the Master!  “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

Peter’s feeling was understandable. If Jesus were the Messiah, why would He have to suffer many things, and then be killed (Peter probably never even heard the part about being raised on the third day!)?  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Don’t you think Jesus was maybe a little hard on Peter?  Couldn’t He have corrected Peter more gently?  Why is He suddenly such a hothead?

“Get behind Me, Satan!  You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (verse 23).  He sounds like me and my kids sometimes.  I hope for and envision great things for them, I love them and teach them and pray for them.  But when they act in ungodly ways, I sometimes let them have it!

It’s hard to feel exactly what Jesus must have felt and know exactly how Jesus said these scathing words.  But, surely without knowing it, Peter was speaking the Satanic line.  Jesus knows Satan.  He’s wrestled with Him before, in the temptation in the wilderness, and here He sees him again.  Maybe He knows that an even greater temptation will come when the hour comes for Him to be betrayed and delivered to the Jews.  Maybe, for a moment, He’s genuinely tempted to take the easy path to messianic glory, and He knows He must resist, even if the words come from his own familiar friend in whom He trusted.  Peter, in spite of his profession of Jesus, is still following the things of men, and not the things of God.

Jesus uses this temptation to continue His dramatic new teaching, and so He now presents his fourth teaching for today.  Not only will the Messiah suffer many things and be killed, but His disciples also must be willing to suffer for Him.  Usually, we read this astounding verse, verse 24, knowing that Jesus will die on the cross and be raised from the dead.  But how must it have sounded to the disciples before they had seen the Crucifixion and Resurrection?

Not only will this Messiah suffer and die, but those who want to be His disciples and follow Him must deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him.  But He’s just told us that He will suffer and then die.  This Jesus is not only greater than any of the disciples imagined; He will also suffer more and appear defeated.  Peter, who heard such blessed pronunciations of who God had called him to be, now heard about his own need to suffer.

As with Peter, Jesus is calling you to the next level of faith in and commitment to Him.  He’s asking you to come to the next level of love in your relationship with Him.  While still in this life, this next level will require that you give yet more of yourself to Him, and this will be a painful process.  Neither you nor I have completely denied ourselves that we might follow our Lord.  We are all still too mindful of the things of men.

But by taking up your cross, Jesus is calling you to the same blessings He offered Peter.  Come, sit at the Master’s feet a while today.  Listen to Him as He tells you what He wants you to learn and to do next.

And stay tuned: you ought to be here for tomorrow’s lesson!  Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Prayer:  O Lord Jesus Christ, draw me by Thy love that I may deny myself, and, taking up my cross daily, may follow after Thee, until I am like Thee and with Thee where Thou art.  Amen. 

Points for Meditation:

  1. What is the next lesson that the Master is trying to teach you?
  2. In what ways have you been acting like Peter, as God’s adversary? In what ways are you resisting the Lord’s teaching and leading? 

Resolution:  I resolve to listen to my Master today until I have heard His next lesson.  Having heard it, I resolve to put it into action in one way today. 

© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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