Rock to Stumbling Block


September 3, 2017

Matthew 16:21-28

At this point of our Gospel, Peter must be on an emotional roller-coaster. I don’t think it is just Peter that is trying to understand. Most of the disciples probably have the same thoughts, Peter is the only one that steps up to say what he is thinking. Perhaps you have been on the same type of emotional roller-coaster.

Think of that time that you felt like you were on top of the world. Nothing could slow you down and nothing could bring you down. Until!?! Something occurs that makes you realize that you are human after all and are not any different than the person you just passed walking on the sidewalk. I would venture to say that most of us have all been there at one time in our lives. It could be as simple as achieving success at work, only to have your boss come around to degrade you for a little error you have made. It could be as complicated as a catastrophe of some scale to knock you back where you are left gasping for air.

Now imagine how Peter was feeling at this moment, just prior to our passage in Matthew this morning. He has declared his faith in Jesus and proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus answers him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I can tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…” I am sure Peter is feeling a little pressure after this conversation. He also must be wondering what God has in store for him considering Jesus’ revelation.

And then it gets messy. Peter throws up a roadblock to the idea of Jesus being killed. This is the first of Jesus’ four passion predictions in Matthew and they do not get any easier. Peter cannot imagine what Jesus is talking about. This was not in the game plan that he received when he joined the team. The plan that Jesus has now laid out before them runs counter to culture. It is in Peter’s failure to understand that he confronts Jesus and tells him that what Jesus speaks of can never happen. Peter suddenly finds himself at the bottom looking up when Jesus calls him a stumbling block. He instructs Peter, Get behind me, Satan!”

Jesus knows the plans to come and the pain and suffering he must encounter. Peter must get in line behind him and follow. He must remove himself from the little things and be open to the divine that is in their midst.

Now this is a Peter that we can relate to. How often do we focus on the little things in life and allow ourselves to be distracted from the much greater things? Life itself. Life as it can be found in Jesus Christ. Even when we have no clue what is happening.

God is at work amid it all. In the messy and the unfinished. In the muck and the grime. Jesus is not looking for perfection. Jesus comes to live among us in the reality of it all. In the messiness. In the flesh and the blood that we experience as humanity. He is not looking for a church that is invisible, pure, and undefiled. No such place exists in our earthly realm.

In Jesus, we find life and are promised the realm of heaven. A heaven without boundaries, where love overflows. First, we must experience death. It is in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we are promised eternal life and a love unbounded. Jesus comes to us in our own messiness and faults.

What if we were to follow him and do the same. What if we were to share that same love that has been poured out for us with those that are in need? What if we were to forgive those that oppose us, persecute us, mock and belittle us? If only Jesus’ way was our way. What a different world it would be.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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