john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sharing Peter's Confusion over Christ

    Editorial for Grapevine, Northmoor Churches weekly bulletin

    Matthew 16.21-28

    You can probably understand Peter's confusion. Having just been applauded by Jesus for identifying his Lord as "the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16.16), he now finds himself chastised in the most chilling terms: "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 16.23)

    The confusion Peter had was over what he thought a Messiah should want. Jesus' desire for his future involved Jesus suffering and dying at the hands of the religious authorities; Peter couldn't countenance this. He wanted Jesus to desire to be what he, Peter, wanted him to be: a live Messiah, who would triumph on earth as all earthly Messiahs are expected to: through shows of strength and demonstrations of power.

    The strength of Jesus' rebuke shows how seriously flawed Peter's desires were. Because he was tuned in to the desires of his Father, Jesus willed to be the Messiah who through overcoming death would once-for-all negate Messianic activities on earth (the endless round of conflict and death) and establish a new kingdom, a kingdom of eternal forgiveness, love and peace entirely free of death, entirely focussed on life.

    So, do I share Peter's confusion about Jesus? Do I want Jesus to embrace my desires for life rather than be prepared to embrace his? This week the West rejoiced in the demise of a Middle-Eastern kingdom, but today's Gospel passage helps us understand that the fall of the house of Gaddafi does not end the world's endless round of conflict and death, it merely perpetuates it: only Jesus breaks that cycle; the willing victim who gave himself to death, to put an end to death once for all.