12 November 2011

Matthew 16:21-28

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (v. 24)


In the previous few verses we hear Peter's great moment of faith as he declares "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).

As soon as that is heard, and as soon as the reader begins to celebrate with Peter in his moment of glory a new picture emerges, a picture that at odds with what went before. The reader might well agree with Peter, the rock-man, who wants to defend and protect Jesus, but, Jesus says, we would be wrong.

When a statement of faith is made it is a great and wonderful thing. Anyone who has had the privilege to participate in adult Baptisms and confirmation services will tell you that it is a great joy to be alongside people who come to a personal recognition of the God-man, Jesus.

But that is not the end of the journey, it is a beautiful moment of clarity, but now the journey of faith takes a different turn. It is after Peter's acclamation that Jesus announces the way in which he will be treated and hints at the resurrection to come. Peter misses the resurrection and just sees the pain and indignity of Jesus' demise. Jesus could have scolded him for overlooking the resurrection, but instead he points out that his suffering is a foretaste of the suffering church, that all who follow will need to "take up their cross".

It seems that the journey of faith for Peter does not end with naming Jesus for who he is, rather it is a transition into experiencing at firsthand the full cost of following him. When the rock-man fails to grasp the vulnerability of faith in the God-man it's as if the foundations of the Church are shaken. For a statement of faith is simply not enough for the Church. Action, and vulnerable action at that, seems to be a requirement of the disciples of Jesus.

To Ponder

Who are the most vulnerable in your church? In your street? In your community?

When have you felt vulnerable? And what did it feel like?

How might we best support one another in the church in order to help people fulfil their calling to be disciples of Jesus Christ?

Bible notes author

The Revd Simon Sutcliffe

Simon Sutcliffe is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church currently working part time as the tutor for evangelism and church growth at Queen's Foundation, Birmingham and part time as a pioneer minister with Venture FX establishing new forms of Christian community in the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District. Simon has four children who help to keep him grounded and in a constant cycle of tidying up(!), and is deeply disappointed that none of them support Bradford City..