Summary: From Saint to sinner. From "blessed are you," to "Get behind me Satan!" A look at the life of Peter, and his relationship with Jesus and how our lives might be mirrors of his.
September 1, 2002 Matthew 16:21-26
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What a difference a day makes.
I would imagine that at next weeks worship services and for sure on Sept. 11, and probably on Sunday the 15th of September, those words will be the theme of many sermons across the United States and perhaps around the world.
Many people, many pastors will use the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to illustrate how lives change, how our country changed, how the world changed because of one terrible, tragic, unthinkable act.
I don’t mean to diminish what happened on that day or the effect that it had on thousands of people, especially those families who lost loved ones in the Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City or at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., or in a remote field in western Pennsylvania, however, I would offer to you today that our lives, all of our lives, can change dramatically from one day to the next, from one hour to the next, from one minute to the next, without any tragic outside influence.
We see a dramatic example of this in our Gospel text for this morning.
Remember last weeks Gospel?
Jesus and his disciples had gone to Caesarea Philippi. It was here that Jesus had asked his closest followers, “Who do you say I am?”
Peter stepped forward and became the spokesman for the group and shouted out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
We don’t see many pictures of our Lord with a smile on his face, but I can picture him, at this point, turning to Peter, and with maybe even a hint of laughter in his voice, saying, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah.”
We discussed last week, and I’ll remind you again, that Peter, as we are told in the Scriptures, did not know this because he figured it out. No little light bulb had gone off inside Peter’s head and, POP, he realized that this Jesus he had been following for almost 2 years, watching him heal the sick and drive out demons, was in fact the promised Messiah.
It didn’t happen like that. It didn’t happen like that for Peter just like it doesn’t happen like that for us. Peter didn’t intellectually figure this out.
I hear people all the time say that they know the exact moment they became a Christian. Sometimes they’ll ask me. Do you know when you became a Christian? Do you know when you were born again?
You know what my answer is.
Yes, I know the exact moment I became a child of God. It was when Pastor Kruse, on June 8, 1952, spoke the Words, “I baptize you in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as he poured the water of Holy Baptism onto my head.
Was I conscious of what was happening? Had I woken up that morning at the ripe old age of 1 month and run into my parents room and said, “Mom, Dad, today’s the day I’ve decided to become a Christian.” Of course not.
It was a gift from God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
My intellectual capabilities and Peter’s were about equal when it came to figuring out Jesus.
But, and this is pure conjecture on my part, I think maybe Peter didn’t hear the rest of what Jesus said. The part about it being revealed to him by Jesus’ Father in heaven.
Why do I think that? Because of what happens next.
Today’s Gospel explains what happened after Peter made his confession of who Jesus is.
And this, my friends is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus.
This is just like Luke chapter 9, verse 51.
If you remember back to last summer, I brought this verse up time and time again. I’ll refresh your memory:
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Today’s Gospel is the beginning of the journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus follows up Peter’s confession with kind of a confession of his own. He tells the disciples what his future is going to be. Once again, from Mt. 16:21: “Jesus began to explain to 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.”
Now, when we hear that read to us or we read those words ourselves, we look at them from an entirely different perspective than the disciples who were with Jesus at that time.