From that time on, 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.” (Matthew 16:21-23)
I’ve referred to our weekly readings in Mark’s Gospel as a ‘journey’. Well …if reading through Mark is a journey, this is the part of the journey where we get mugged.
“Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23).
Jesus says it to Peter. It’s not the first time Jesus has said something unexpected, nor the first time He has been harsh, but it is the first time that He’s said something so harsh and unexpected to one of His own. Moreover, it seems like only moments earlier that Jesus was blessing Peter and telling him that he was a ‘rock’ – indeed, that he was the rock upon which Jesus was going to build His church! (Matthew 16:18) That rock suddenly became Satan! Which is it? Surely, Peter can’t be both?
The problem, I believe, goes back to Peter’s confession – “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. (Matthew 16:16). Jesus had commended Peter for those words. Indeed, Jesus said His church would be built upon those words. Even so, as Jesus then went on to explain what being ‘the Messiah’ was all about, it became clear that Jesus and Peter were on entirely different tracks.
The term ‘Messiah’ means ‘saviour’, and for Peter and his peers, there was only one thing they needed saving from – the Roman Occupation. Ever since Pompey planted his standards in Jerusalem, sixty-three years before Jesus was born, the people of Israel had their land and their lives controlled by Roman overlords, and they hated it. Roman soldiers patrolled the streets, the Romans taxed everything they earned, and Roman justice butchered anybody and everybody who dreamed of independence. So, when Peter proclaimed Jesus as ‘Saviour’, he understood exactly who Jesus was going to save them from, and it didn’t involve Him in being brutalized and killed!
Peter and his confession, ‘You are the Messiah’, remind us of how we can get things completely right and completely wrong at the same time. Peter was right. Jesus was the saviour of the world. At the same time, Peter was crucially wrong in just about every one of the details. Peter was a man of his time, and it wasn’t easy for him to grasp any vision of liberation beyond the one that was already consuming him.
I don’t know if any of us can do much better than Peter. I have my own agenda on what needs to be changed in our world. I’m praying every day for peace in Palestine, for the release of Julian Assange, for an end to the sanctions on Syria, for harmony in my family, and for so many things … Is there a bigger picture that I’m missing?
“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” (Matthew 16:27).
Justice will come. That’s the promise our Gospel ends on today. I have to believe that the coming of justice will include salvation for Syria, for Palestine, for Julian and for my family, just as it did ultimately mean an end to the Roman occupation. Even so, it may include a whole lot more.
Our Sunday Eucharist
We had a barrel of laughs at last Sunday’s Eucharist! I know it’s not supposed to be a comedy, but Doug was in fine form – sharing his dad jokes and giving himself a rather unique on-screen title. You’ll catch all that in the opening few minutes of the video below.
The other highlight from last Sunday for me was the homily from Father Elias. Somehow, Elias managed to connect the teachings of Saint Paul in the twelfth chapter of his Letter to the Romans with his experience of boxing! If you missed it, it’s only five minutes long and full of wisdom.
This coming Sunday I look forward to having David with me on the panel and Rev. Stephen Sizer joining us with a pre-recorded message on Romans 12. This is normally the week we have our Muslim brother, Tom, join us but, unfortunately, Tom is currently en route to Iraq for another pilgrimage to Karbala. I trust he’ll have a great time and I look forward to having him back with us next month.
That means there is a vacancy this Sunday for the right person. Let us know if you’re keen. Either way, join us from around 11.45 am via thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Streamyard.
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I do pray that you’re having a good week. I’ve spent much of this morning in court, trying to support a young friend with a bail application. I find these things so draining, especially when (like today) we are not successful. Even so, as I remind myself, we don’t have to win every round to win the fight. We get knocked down. We get up again. We keep fighting.
I must mention one exciting thing here too – that in less than three weeks’ time, Joy and I will be heading to the UK. This trip is Joy’s gift to me, and it will give me an opportunity to meet many of her friends and family. I’m also hoping to catch up with our brother, Stephen Sizer, while I’m there, and well as other friends and family in England, Ireland and Scotland. Well … I probably won’t get to see everybody I’d like to, but I hope to make the most of my time there, and I’m open to all suggestions.😊
Finally, I’ve only published one special article that I commend to you this week:
Catch Father Elias’’ reflection on Romans 12 and the Boxing Gym – now available on the member site, complete with transcript. Click here
May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.
P.S. If you’re wondering about the pics, Sergeant Steve is an old mate who was one of the speakers at a training session I attended on domestic violence. The pic with Joy in it includes our new best mate, Peter Walker of the United Theological College.