The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
Proper 19, B
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
16 September 2018
In the name of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ. Amen.
This is a great text!
It has so much!
Jesus asks the disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They give a host of answers,
Peter gets it right
but Jesus says “Don’t talk about me.”
Then Jesus predicts his own death for the first time
and Peter says that it can’t happen.
Then Jesus tells the crowd
that following him means taking up a cross,
dying to the way life has existed.
There’s a lot going on this week!
I tend to not have three point sermons,
but I think today lends itself to one,
particularly as we find ourselves in financial crisis
asking ourselves what following Jesus looks like.
Our passage starts today
with just Jesus and the disciples.
Jesus asks “Who do people say that I am?”
The disciples have heard people talking about Jesus.
Some say that he’s John the Baptizer,
a rowdy prophet who got attention
said that religious leaders were a brood of vipers
and told crowds of strangers that they needed to repent.
Others say that Jesus is Elijah,
a prophet and miracle worker who didn’t die
and who insisted on worshipping the God
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Others say some other prophet.
Jesus asks who the disciples say he is,
and Peter says the Messiah,
the anointed one,
the one come to free Israel and humanity.
In following Jesus our savior
it's important for us to remember
that Jesus is the savior.
If we are to have revival and revitalization
like those led by John the Baptizer and Elijah,
we will need to ask
“Who do people say that we are?”
And we’ll have to ask “Who do we say that we are?”
The crowds didn’t know who Jesus was,
but he did —
and Peter understood it too…
at least to a point.
Because that’s where things take a turn.
This is the first time in Mark’s gospel
that Jesus tells the disciples he’s going to die
and that after he dies he’ll be raised from the dead.
“He said all this quite openly,”
as the text says.
When Peter said that Jesus was the Messiah,
he wasn’t looking for someone to die
and maybe come back to life.
He was looking for someone to stir things up
maybe get rid of the Roman oppressors.
Peter can’t imagine a savior
who is going to die.
Jesus rebukes Peter
for his lack of imagination.
This is one of the most well-known passages
in the New Testament.
Jesus calls Peter Satan,
Jesus rebukes Peter for
“Setting his mind not on divine things
but on earthly things.”
Peter is so focused on his friend,
one the person he’s gotten to be familiar with,
on his comfort in how things are
that he challenges the person he just called Messiah.
Jesus is having none of it,
knowing why he’d come to earth
and knowing that his mission included death --
For us following Jesus in Lakewood in the 21stCentury
we need to wonder how much our minds
are focused on earthly or heavenly things.
Following Jesus in 2018
means asking what’s best not only for us
but for the whole of the church
and for the whole of the community.
It’s asking if we’re sticking to what we know as familiar
or willing to go new places.
That’s where the third part of our text
overlaps with a third piece of work we have.
After telling just his closest followers
that he will die and be raised in three days
Jesus tells everyone that if they want to follow him
they will have to die to the ways they live.
“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,
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
At Mass in the Grass I preached
that following Jesus leads one place.
Jesus tells us where that is today:
taking up a cross,
like he did on the road to Calvary,
Following Jesus right now for us
will mean dying to something,
one way or another.
It will definitely mean dying
to barely making payroll and paying bills.
It may mean dying to not pledging
It must mean dying to
not inviting those we know and encounter to join us at church.
Having experienced the resurrected Christ,
finding new life in this body and at this table,
feasting on Christ’s body
we will have to share that Good News with others.
“For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake,
and for the sake of the gospel,
will save it.”
How do we need to die,
so that we might find resurrection life? Amen.