August 28, 2005 - Pentecost +15

Matthew 16:21-28

 21 From that day Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem; he would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

22 Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, "Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you." 23 But Jesus turned to him and said, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do."

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. 25 For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys himself? There is nothing you can give to recover your own self.

27 Know that the Son of Man will come in the Glory of his Father with the holy angels, and he will reward each one according to his deeds. 28 Truly, I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the Son of Man coming as king."

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Notes from [The Community Christian Bible

• 21. See commentary on Mark 8:31.

Get behind me, Satan… (v. 23). When Peter stands in front of Jesus to block the way to the cross, Jesus recognizes in his words the same spirit that tempted him in the desert. Jesus calls him Satan, meaning tempter. Let Peter get behind Jesus and follow him as is proper for a disciple.

Whoever chooses to save his life will lose it. Jesus draws attention to the great option of every human life: we cannot discover God; we cannot make a success of life without sacrificing it. All the rest is idle talk. The option terrifies us in the same measure that life for us seems promising. It is also the reason why marriage and family frighten many.

He will find his life (v. 25). In 10:39 we translated this phrase: "benefit one's life".

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Comments by Wesley

1. One step at a time. Last week we got the disciples directly tying an affirmation of "Messiah" directly to Jesus. Now, hard on its heels, comes an implication of such an insight -- the path is toward religious and political confrontation in Jerusalem that, in the ordinary course of events, would lead quite naturally to suffering.

As we consolidate one insight, another pops up to press us further along the road to maturity (whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, etc"al".) Ready or not, you will find the fullness of life pushing at you to find and reveal that fullness.

2. Our tendency is to do what we have been good at in the past -- to do it over and over again, even past its effectiveness. This is thinking like people. The call here is to recognize our tendency to back off from engaging larger thoughts that push us into what appears to be risks on behalf of a yet unfocused future. The call is to think seven generations out, like GOD does. Our short-range protectionism rarely really protects or is helpful in long-range visions of "better" yet to come.

3. It is this long-range, goal-oriented, living that we are called to pay attention to. This is where our "self" is calling us. When we fight suffering we have already lost our best self and there is no way recover it by fighting harder.

The temptation is to avoid suffering. This sums up all the wilderness temptations -- avoidance of a suffering body, avoidance of a suffering reduced status, avoidance of a suffering lack of power. To give into the "avoidance" temptation is to become lost in the maze of distractions that keep us from self-ing. We become extensions of our distractions, not choosers of a better reality.

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