Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28
Epistle: Romans 12:9-21
Lesson: Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm: Psalm 26
CLB Commentary – Rev. Bill Helland
When I try to put myself in the sandals of the disciples (and particularly Peter, in whom I can see a lot of myself) it had to be gut-wrenching to hear Jesus talk about suffering abuse, ridicule, and eventual death. That was not at all the expectations they had for him! And whatever he said about being raised back to life must have gone in one ear and out the other, for it seems to have had absolutely no positive impact on them whatsoever!
With that in mind, one way we might approach this text is to notice the issue of authority.
Jesus taught with authority and the crowds loved it! As we see in Mark 1:22, for example; The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
Much of the tension that built between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders had to do with this very issue of authority. I encourage you to do a word search on this, for it is interesting to see how often this came up during his three years of ministry.
So in our text, Jesus patiently explained, with divine authority, what the future held for him and what that meant for his disciples. Peter, in reaction, impatiently explodes with human authority and rebuked Jesus! “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
Now we can smile and shake our head at Peter, saying something to the effect; “Poor Peter; trying to tell the Lord – the Son of God, the Christ, the chosen one, the King of Kings – what to do or not to do. That’s pathetic!”
But don’t we do this too? Even pastors try to manipulate God into doing things our way as we exert our “pastoral authority” over him. And if we are struggling with this, most certainly our listeners on Sunday morning are as well!
One of the many ironies in following Christ is that authority comes to us, not in the world’s way of positioning ourselves for maximum power and authority, but through death. Paul got this figured out, thanks to the inspiring, revealing work of the Holy Spirit in his heart and mind, so he wrote to
the Philippians about it (see Phil. 2:6-11). He told them, what Jesus is teaching us in our text, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5)
And Jesus said; “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,…then he [the Father] will reward each person according to what he has done.”
Obviously, we would never preach this as law or works righteousness, but, in light of the fact that Jesus did this very thing for us, we want to proclaim (with the authority he has given us) that there is great reward in doing the same, out of humble gratitude for his grace and mercy towards us.
As we die to our desire to have supreme authority and control, we will find that God gives us his Word to speak it with authority for his honor and glory, and not ours. Peter, preaching in the streets of Jerusalem, after the Holy Spirit came upon him and others, is a classic example of this.
May you and your listeners be blessed as you proclaim God’s Word with the authority he has given you.