Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Matthew 16:21–16:28
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 16:21-28
Date: September 3rd, 2017; Pentecost 13; series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
How quickly things change.
In last week’s gospel lesson we heard St. Peter’s great confession.
When Jesus asked the disciples who they say he is, Peter confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Jesus called Peter blessed. He praised God the Father for giving this true confession to Peter and said that the entire church would be built upon it.
Now, only five verses later, Peter is telling Jesus how to operate his plan of salvation.
Last week we see Peter allowing God to work through him as he boldly and faithfully made his confession about Christ.
This week we see Peter allowing Satan to work through him.
Satan had always wanted Jesus to take the short cut. He wanted Jesus to avoid the cross and become king the easy way.
We see this especially when he tempted Jesus over and over again in the wilderness.
Jesus was offered the entire world if he would worship Satan just once.
Back then Jesus answered, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve'" (Matthew 4:10).
Peter did not know it, but he was tempting Jesus with the same thing when he said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).
In other words, ”Avoid the cross. Take the easy way. You are God. You are all powerful. Just force your way into control of your kingdom. This talk of suffering and death makes no sense. This shall never happen to you”.
It was bad enough to hear this temptation from the enemy, but to hear it from one of his disciples - that had to be tough.
Jesus rebuked Peter in much the same way he rebuked the devil, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).
You see, Peter had a similar mindset as many others in his day.
They were hoping that Jesus, the promised Messiah, would come into the world with power and might and give them the good life.
They thought that being one of Jesus’ followers meant that they would be on top of the world.
This view is still alive and well today.
This understanding of God’s salvation is what theologians call the “Theology of Glory.”
According to this view, if you believe in Jesus, or accept Jesus into your heart and live your life like a good Christian should – then God will bless you with everything you want. You will be happy, healthy, wealthy.
There are many who preach this message on TV and on the radio.
Joel Osteen is a perfect example of this theology of glory - and he has the largest congregation in the United States.
And it isn't surprising that this message is popular.
Who doesn't want to hear that if you just have enough faith, and if you think positively enough - well then you will be healthy, and you will have a nice house, nice car, healthy relationships, everything you want.
According to this view, Jesus rewards those who have enough faith and lifts them out of the difficulties of this life and places them in the midst of blessings and abundance.
If you have enough faith, if you are good enough, if you think positively enough - well then you will be spared from the hardships of this world.
But is that why Jesus came into the world?
Did he suffer and die on the cross so that you could have nice things?
Unfortunately, as we heard in our text, Peter had fallen into this theology of glory.
But, to this type of thinking our Lord responds, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:26).
To this type of thinking our Lord responds, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Christ did not promise that if we become Christians we would get everything we want in this life and things would be easy.
In fact, he promises us that we will endure hardships. We will have crosses to bear. This is simply part of living in a sinful and fallen world.
What Jesus does promise is that he will bring us through any - and every - difficulty we face.
He promises that no matter what we endure in this life, even the most horrible and difficult things we experience - we will prevail.
Theologians refer to this view as the “Theology of the Cross”.
This is the theology of the Bible.
Christ has not promised to lift us up and remove us from the hardships of life.
Instead, he came into the world to experience them for himself.
Without deserving it - he suffered hunger and thirst, pain and suffering, sorrow and sadness - and finally death on a cross.
He experienced sin, suffering, and death in the extreme - and then he defeated it.
He defeated it for you.
He promises that he will be with you every moment of your life to make sure that you will persevere with him to the end.
You are going to experience crosses.
You are going to experience difficulties in this life.
But, Christ has promised you his love, his forgiveness, and his strength that you will carry on.
He has promised to face with you each and every cross that you are bearing.
He has promised to lead you to eternal life where all of these difficulties will only be in our past.
The crosses we bear are not evidence that God has abandoned us, they are not the result of our lack of faith - they are the result of living in a fallen world and are the very reason that Christ came into this sinful world to save us.
Today we experience sin and death just like Jesus did when he suffered and died for us.
But tomorrow we rise with him to new life.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Enjoy all of the blessings that God has given to you in this life. Enjoy them and use them to his glory.
Take up the crosses that come upon you knowing that you are not alone as you carry them. Knowing that the One we follow is leading us to himself and to life everlasting.
Set your minds on the things of God - set your minds on his love, forgiveness, and gift of eternal life. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.