Immediately after complimenting Peter for his great confession, that he was the Christ, Jesus rebukes him for being shortsighted on our Lord’s full mission, that is that he had to suffer, die, and be raised For this he placed Peter on Satan’s side, saying plainly that he was “not on the side of God, but of men.”
Indeed, he goes on to say that all who would follow him must “take up a cross” — die with him and for him.
Great follower that he was, Peter failed completely to realize, as Albright the commentator says, “that the fate of Jesus involves the disciples too.”
While we didn’t have this text before our eyes and ears until some six months later, it was very much before us in reality as we re-enacted our Lord’s entry into the Holy City on Palm Sunday, March 20th, processing down the driveway and into New Parish Hall for our first Eucharist there — bearing all the way the simple wooden cross Josh fashioned for us with his own hands.
We knew then that “take[ing] up a cross” meant far more than Thomas carrying it down the driveway, or wearing one around our neck, or raking the sign of the cross at Communion. As Alphonso opened the
door of New Parish Hall, as he customarily did in another location, we understood better than most the great theological principle of our Lord with regard to rejection, suffering, and death, for we had experienced it all beyond the experience of most.
As we sang our songs of praise to the Almighty, heard the Word of God, made our Communions, and fellowshipped in our Lord’s precious Name in these providentially provided confines, we knew too like few others, as Paul put it, that our “slight momentary affliction [had been] preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (II Corinthians 4.17), as we were then having a glorious foretaste of it in lovely new surroundings.
We have come to realize by all this that indeed each pays a price for loyalty to Christ — that, as the great Bonhoffer put it, there’s a “cost to discipleship.” In other words, a life lived for Christ and in the Spirit goes well beyond verbal confession; as Peter was taught, it means active, even aggressive witness, as the Book of Common Prayer 1928 has it, “against sin, the world and the devil” (page 280), which, as we well know, will be viciously resisted It’s a life that’s heavenly, even here on earth — a life that sees not from the side of men, but one that sees from the side of God.
– JR Hiles
Adapted from a Sermon on Matthew 16.21-27 — 8/28/05