Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Matthew 16. 21-28 Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

"For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."


  1. Surely it is the most natural thing in the world to want to refuse suffering - especially for those whom I love. So I am right there with Peter saying to Jesus, "God forbid, this must never happen to you." And 2 thousand years later I live in a world that still wants to forbid suffering and death (we stop at nothing to avoid it, deny it or sterilize it). But Jesus rebuked Peter and rebukes us. He knew that suffering and death are inescapable in life. Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny
    himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" ( Matthew 16.24-25).

    Not only are we to accept suffering as part of the human experience, but we must consent to it, to "take it up" and allow it to transform us. Paul wrote to the Romans, "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,
    which is your spiritual worship." (12.1)

    Remember the first sentence of our text, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem…” Jesus was showing the disciples that they too must go to Jerusalem… they too must go the path of false accusation, judgment, betrayal and death in order to move into new life, resurrection life.
    The way we follow Jesus is by offering ourselves, our lives for his purpose. In times of persecution that may mean as martyrs. In more peaceful times that means subordinating our personal satisfaction or benefit for the greater good, it means being willing to suffer in whatever form that may take. A traditional African, Kipsignids saying puts it this way, " It is not only physical bravery that counts. One must have the courage to face life as it is, to go through sorrows, and always sacrifice oneself for the sake of others." Jesus was unequivocal when he said, "No greater love has a man than this, that he would lay down his life for another." Jesus showed the disciples that this was the way of new life and enjoins us to do likewise.

  2. I have heard these words all my life: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” and find myself still in the stage of wanting to become. At least this I know for sure: that I want to become a follower. As for practicing the deny-self and take-up-a-cross parts, I don't know. The journey of denying my false self has brought me to a clearer understanding of my true self, and in this Self I earnestly want to be a follower. The struggle to carry a cross, to hold onto this death-to-falseness, has also been worthwhile and has brought me to a place where I accept life in whatever form it comes to me, and I can accept death when it comes.
    I am glad that “become a follower” is a process concept. I am glad that there is allowance for my journey, my struggle, my pace. I am relieved that the pressure on me is not as sever as it was on Peter and company, and that Jesus has not found it necessary to rebuke me as harshly as he did Peter (probably that because of the desperateness of what Peter and the disciples would face momentarily). So I accept the place I am – wanna-be follower, with assurance that Jesus takes me with him still, now.