Summary: The sermon is when Peter rebuked Jesus for suggesting he would die on the cross. Proper 17, Year A
The Day Peter Was An Idiot: Missing The Necessity of the Cross
Proper 17 – Matthew 16:21-28
Since February of this year, the People’s Republic of China has removed and destroyed over 900 crosses from Christian churches. If that wasn’t enough, to display a cross on a place of worship is a crime against the government. If congregants disobey, the government can try them as insurrections.
The cross is offensive.
I read an article in an academic journal a few months ago at Sewanee that informs this sermon. The author called for the historic Christian churches in New York City to remove the crosses because they were invasive and not in the spirit of inclusion. She said crosses might offend the non-Christian tourists who visit the beautiful churches.
The cross is offensive.
In today's Gospel lesson, Jesus says the cross is the way to God… "Anyone who wants to come after me, let them take up the cross and follow me.” When his most loyal and exuberant disciple heard such, he had to correct his Rabbi's ignorance. It caused a rift between them that even made it into the Gospels.
The cross is offensive. The apostle Paul called it a stumbling block. That's true for the Chinese government, a clergy person in New York City, and Simon Peter, the fisherman.
Because this a heavy subject, I've used some satire… today's sermon: Why Peter Was an Idiot. Why do I say that?
Because Peter Denies Difficulties.
Last week Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you say that I am?” and Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the son of God.”
Peter hit a home run! That was the first time in Matthew’s Gospel that the disciples came out and said that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus praised Peter, gave him a new name, Petros, rock, and gave him the “keys to God’s kingdom.”
It gives us a sigh of relief. The tension subsides, and we no longer have to wonder if Peter will ever “get it.” Finally, after 15 chapters, the disciples realize that Jesus is the Christ.
Immediately following those verses, Jesus reveals what it means to be the Messiah, "I'm going to Jerusalem to die on a cross."
That was too much for Peter!... “Jesus doesn’t know what he’s talking about… I agree with him on everything else, but this idea is absurd.” So Peter decides to enlighten him, set him straight, as it were.
Have you ever had to deal with a know-it-all? Few things are as succulent as when you can prove them wrong! I heard that the best way to handle a know-it-all is to tell them that “Know-it-alls should know that nobody likes a know-it-all.”
Peter musters his best professorial voice, “Jesus, I’m not saying that you are ignorant of interpretive method, but your ideas are incongruent with conservative and informed interpretations.”
Here’s the bottom line: Peter has no room for other opinions, interpretations, and especially no room for Messianic difficulties.
Why is he an idiot? Because he doesn’t trust Jesus.
Jesus isn’t in the mood for Peter’s foolishness and his dedication to an easy way out; he says to him, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me."
Well… that escalated quickly! Everyone is having a good time, then Jesus has to talk about the government killing him. Peter just can’t stand that much ignorance, so he tells Jesus just how stupid the idea is, then Jesus fires back by calling Peter the one name that’s the ultimate insult, Satan.
Do these two need a training seminar on family systems and pastoral relationships? “Lesson # 1, No name-calling, especially ‘stupid,’ and ‘Satan.’” Lesson # 2, don’t fight in front of disciples who are middle management.”
Before we excommunicate Jesus, it would be helpful to know what the word Satan means. It means tempter, adversary, stumbling block.
The word is scandalon in Greek; it’s where we derive our English word scandal. “Peter, your suggestion that I can bypass the religious and governmental powers that revolt against a message of love, hope, healing, mercy, and inclusion is scandalous.”
Remember what the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Corinthian Church, “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but for the ones who follow Jesus it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Peter wanted a Messiah without a cross… Such a Christianity does not exist. When we preach that love and inclusion hold hands, we can expect resistance and retaliation.
Then we reach a turning point in the text. What Jesus says next is ground-breaking…, and it changes the theological scope of Jesus’s ministry, and should inform our own.
He says that he must go to Jerusalem, be crucified, die, and rise again. He says that it’s God’s will for this to happen.