Eucharist – 12th Sunday after Trinity 30th August
Last week we read how Peter, alone amongst Christ’s disciples, was able (after a little prompting) to identify him as the long-awaited Messiah, and Son of the living God: yet today we begin with their being forbidden to tell anyone else – yet. Why?
Well, they’ve got a lot to learn. I dare say if you or I suddenly met our Saviour we’d want to rush round telling everybody: it’s only natural to want to share good news. But of course the story is only just beginning – Jesus has yet to teach them quite what it will take to save the world: his suffering, death and Resurrection. Of course, Matthew was writing with hindsight: he knows the answer beforehand. If the words tripped off Jesus’s tongue quite the way they do on the page it’s hardly a surprise that Peter should question it. He’s just found out “that’s GOD, that is! He can do anything – even save the world!” and is horrified to think his doing so might be prevented by death, and death (what’s more) at the hands of God’s servants. He exclaims “God forbid it!” – what a prayer! and the very opposite of what’s right. No sooner has Peter accepted Jesus as Christ, and been given his job supporting the church, than he thinks he can tell God-in-Christ what (and what not) to do:- becoming thereby like the very religious leaders Jesus has said would condemn him. No sooner has his name been changed to Peter (a rock) from Simon (which might mean “hearing” – as in “listener” – someone who does not tell but is told) , he is addressed as Satan: – the enemy of all that is good. The man who was to stand firm where he’s put (underneath) instead gets ahead of himself, and leads his Lord into temptation.
Jesus replies sharply, yet helpfully. He puts Peter, literally, back in his place: he doesn’t give him the sack. The rock may have become a stumbling block – a loose stone to trip over – but if he can only remember what he just learned, that Jesus is truly divine, and focus on that, and that only, there may be hope for him yet. \\ So, Jesus addresses the group. “If anyone” (he says) wants to become my follower” (which perhaps they thought they already were) “let him take up their cross, and follow me”. They’ve got to back him up, to the bitter end, which it will be – and each in their own particular, yet related, way. Too late now the cat’s out of the bag on his Messiahship: it can’t be denied, now, but only things contrary to it – such as their selves, if they carry on life as they used to. What else can they do, now they know him, but change? What’s the point counting the cost, if it’s all beyond price? Faced with that anyone might give up hope of being up to the job. No-one can be – Christ is unique. And trying to be like him will certainly fail, being false to the person, yourself, he loves and will save. It’s utterly beyond us: but not (of course) beyond him.
Therefore he gives us his promise. The Son of Man(he says, = me) will come with the angels in his Father’s glory, and repay the infinite cost of discipleship. There’s only one choice – so choose it! Death will be nothing, since all time will stop, and all moments be “now”, truly present. Life, in all its fullness: his kingdom come.