"Well, that didn't last long, Peter."

Proper 17 (22) - August 30, 2020 
- Jeremiah 15:15-21
- Psalm 26:1-8
- Romans 12:9-21
- Matthew 16:21-28
"Well, that didn't last long, Peter."

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Did I ever tell you all about this class I took in college called Sociology of Family?  It was a summer course so I had a lot of extra time to study and do all the assigned reading.  I was also fairly late into my college career so, I knew enough to be dangerous in class.  So, I prepped for the discussion we were going to have on divorce.  The professor, a young, very intelligent woman who just completed here doctorate work in sociology, gets up and asks, “Why are divorce rates rising in the country?” So, I was the first to raise to my hand.  I shot my hand right up in the air.  I was excited.  I read the material.  I had a backlog of facts in my head from other classes that I knew I could use in sparring with the professor and win any counterpoint she made.  I was prepped.  I was going to Ace this class.  I could feel it. She called on me.  I say, “Divorce rates are rising because it is no longer taboo for people to live together before marriage.  Therefore, once a couple does get married, nothing feels different and creates a strain on their relationship because they thought things would change in marriage and possibly get better in their relationship.  When that doesn’t happen, divorce typically happens.  Bam.  Textbook answer based upon fact and relevant data.  I sat back in my chair thinking, “I’ll take my A for today’s class.”  The professor, looks at me and after a few seconds says, “I just moved in with my boyfriend of two years last week. Are we doomed to get a divorce if we get married?”  I seriously felt this tall. I felt like Peter (with the exception that I was right...mostly).  

"Get behind me, Satan!”  Do you all remember what Jesus said of Peter last week? ”And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." That was last week.  Peter was the rock on which Christ would build his church.  Now it’s, "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.”  But see, the narrative timeline is different from our timeline.  Mere moments after being declared a rock and solid foundation, Peter has said the wrong thing, he is called Satan and declared a stumbling block to Jesus.  For anyone who thinks Jesus is all warm and fuzzy, full of butterfly kiss, and oozing with all things cute and cuddly, I give you Matthew 16.  Get behind me Satan. 

Has Jesus just lost all hope in his rock of a disciple?  Has Jesus failed to take into account that his star pupil, first chosen, top of the class disciple might not be all that good at this following Jesus? I sure hope not because if that is the case, we are all doom, myself most of all.  I am unfortunate in the sense that I have saved every, single one of my sermons since seminary.  Some of them I can’t even bring myself to read.  And if reading were not enough, I have been recording myself preaching for about 6 years now.  You know how actors say they can’t watch themselves on tv?  I get that.  I have to force myself to listen to my sermons only to make sure I didn’t say anything too stupid—I listen to make sure I don’t have to do damage control during the week.  We all say things that we wish we didn’t say.  Peter was not wrong for wanting to protect his friend, but Peter doesn’t yet grasp the fact that Jesus  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.” It is a divine necessity because if Jesus doesn’t do it, we are all done for.  

Peter’s rebuking Jesus was done out love for his friend.  “Forbid it, Lord. this must never happen to you.” His love for his friend is greater than his love of the messiah.  I get that.  Sometime I think I love the church more than I love Jesus.  I am willing to sacrifice myself for the church’s sake, but not for my Lord’s sake. It is our way as humans.  Of course Peter is going to set his mind on human things rather than on divine things.  That is what he has done his entire life.  That is what all have done:  we prioritize Self-preservation over the care of the greater good.  Spock is always quoted as saying, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” There is a reason it is called Vulcan logic and not human logic.  That is not how we are wired to think.  To save Jesus would benefit Peter and his merry band of misfit disciples.  To sacrifice Jesus would mean salvation for all the world.  Of course Peter is going to think about himself because why should he care about the rest of the world?  They don’t care about him?  Why should he?  That is human logic and that is the rock on which Christ will build his church?!?!

The rock that Jesus is going to build his church seems a bit…ummmmm…unstable, doesn’t it?  But remember that Jesus didn’t build his church on the back of his disciple. He built his church on the confession that Peter made, on the words that Peter spoke.  You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter might not get it, but the church will still stands.  We might not get it at times, but the church will still stand.  The church Christ built is not dependent on my work, on your work, on the congregation being able to pay its bills, have an amazing Sunday school program, have the best youth group around.  The church of Christ is dependent upon our savior, Jesus Christ.  He is our Messiah.  He is the son of the living God.  He alone is where we place our foundation in this world.  He’s our leader.  He’s the one we follow.

That’s what he reminded Peter when he said, “Get behind me” “In Matthew 4:10 at the end of the temptation, Jesus expels Satan from his presence: Go [away]! (hypage). But to Peter, Jesus adds words that remind him of his place as a disciple: Go behind me (hypage opiso mou, emphasis added). In Matthew, the words opiso mou (“behind me” or “after me”) signify discipleship. The proper place for a disciple is behind Jesus, in the place of a follower.” Peter “is putting his own thoughts ahead of the ways of God, which makes him a stumbling block—a hindrance to Jesus’ mission... but Jesus does not break relationship with him. Instead, he reminds Peter of the proper place for a follower.” Jesus, in fact, never broke that relationship with Peter.  Not once.  Not even in the courtyard when he denied knowing him or being a disciple.  To break that relationship would break his promise—God with us. It is not just God with us when we say the right things or believe the right things. Jesus is with us, even when we are complete morons and make fools out ourselves.  

You know, how many of us put all our faith into idols and human things other than Jesus.  How many times have we heard this election season, “I alone can save you.”  And how many times are we let down by politicians, leaders, parents, friends, pastors who promise great things and then fail to do these impossible tasks?  How many times do we place our trust in others, in human things, in mere mortals to save us rather than in Jesus who actually can and does it? 

Every day.  Every, single day we constant trip over broken promises, broken visions, broken dreams because human things are what we know.  Human things are easier to trust in. Divine things, though, are still such a mystery.  And the only one who knows how to navigate this mystery is begging you to follow him.  Follow Jesus.  To Get behind him.  Take up your cross and follow him. For “The One who is called “God with us” (Matthew 1:23), promising to be “with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20), is already and always going ahead of his followers.  He was the first one to face the worst that the world can do.” So, when the world hands you your cross and you feel like you are going to face death all alone, know the one you have been following, has his cross too and is leading the way to Calvary, and there you will see God redeem you just as God redeemed Jesus.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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