Last week, we heard about Peter making the good confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And we heard Jesus say that this knowledge – knowing who Jesus is — is a gift from God the Father. But this isn’t the whole of what it means to know who Jesus is, and the knowledge that Jesus was going to suffer and was choosing to suffer, was hard for Peter to wrap his head and his heart around. Peter responded, probably with the very best of intentions, by taking Jesus off to the side and trying to change his mind. Jesus’ response must have stung – coming face to face with reality, knowing that you have to go through terrible, horrible, painful things before coming to a glorious end is hard.
Like Peter, we have been given the gift of knowing who Jesus is. And, like Peter, we need to listen to Jesus to hear what the divine plan is so that we can sort it out from our own human desires. What human things do we, as Church, set our mind on when we should be setting our mind on divine things?
Jesus told Peter to get behind him –the proper place for a disciple is to be behind the master in order to follow in the master’s footsteps. Jesus then told all the disciples that they needed to deny themselves, to lose their lives, in order to find life. The disciples’ identity is to be centered upon the life of Jesus. What are we, as Church, being called to die to in order to fully live into our life as Church?
Lest we focus too much on the hard news, Jesus doesn’t just speak about his death. Jesus also speaks about his resurrection and coming again in glory. He promises that his kingdom will be established. How will keeping in mind that “Jesus will come in his kingdom” help us, as Church, to take up our crosses, die to ourselves, and, through this, find life?
Last week we heard about the Canaanite woman with the demon possessed daughter who knew Jesus as the Son of David. Through her faith, which included being persistent in crying out in need, her daughter was healed in a way that restored her to community. Between that snapshot of Jesus’ life and that which we just heard, Jesus has healed more marginalized people and restored them to community life. In compassion he blessed a small amount of food and 4000 shared a meal together. He challenged his disciples to understand that healing and restoration is about more than just physically having food. Now we hear Jesus asking his disciples who the people say he is, and who they say that he is. How we talk about Jesus matters to Jesus; who we say Jesus is informs how we live our lives.
When Simon answered that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus gave him a new name, Peter, and said that Peter’s ability to say who Jesus is, is a gift from God. When we are baptized, we receive a new name: we are Christians. Why is it important for us as Church to know and be able to say who Jesus is?
Much theological conversation and controversy has gone on about who or what the “rock” upon which Jesus builds the church is and who does the binding and loosing. But without controversy is the statement that Death itself cannot prevail against Jesus’ church. This Jesus who died for us on the cross and was raised from the dead now gives himself to us in the bread and the wine of the eucharist. How then, are we as Church, bound by this realization that Jesus is the Son of the Living God?
We live in the time after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, after the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost and Peter’s tongue was loosened to publically declare who Jesus is – the “don’t tell” command has been lifted. How does realizing that Jesus is the Son of the Living God loose us, as Church, to love and serve?