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A Sermon for the 12 th Sunday After Trinity

Matthew 16: 21 – 28

Recently I surprised a colleague when I said I hoped to do some riding this summer

despite cancelling my plans to ride part of the Camino de Santiago. He thought he

knew me pretty well, but hadn’t a clue I liked horses.

We all have many sides to our lives, and even people who think they know us quite

well can be surprised about the in areas of our lives they have not so far glimpsed.

The disciples, too are about to receive quite a shock when Jesus reveals a different

side of who he is.

The disciples were sharing their lives with Jesus. They knew him pretty well. Peter

has just declared that Jesus is the Messiah. An insight which earned Peter the heavy

responsibility of becoming the rock on which Jesus would build his Church.

Today, we see Peter rejecting an important aspect of what it means for Jesus to be

Messiah. Peter remains the rock on which Jesus will build his Church, nothing will

ever change that, but in today’s reading Jesus makes it clear he is also a stumbling

block. An obstacle preventing Jesus from carrying out his unique ministry and


What has gone wrong? We need to notice two things. First, that Peter’s

identification of Jesus as ‘Messiah’ and second, what Jesus does after Peter has

made that declaration.

The Jews (including Jesus’ very Jewish disciples) were waiting for Messiah to come

to set them free. They had waited a long time. For much of their history, the Jews

had been ruled over by foreign dynasties from the Babylonians to the Syrians and

now the Romans. As a result a lot of Jews came to understand that Messiah would

free them from the political oppression

We know that at least two of Jesus’ disciples were political activists, drawn to follow

Jesus in the hope he would be the one to overthrow oppressive Roman rule and free

the Jews from it. Simon the Zealot was almost certainly a member of the Zealots, a

nationalist political party active working for the overthrow of Roman rule. Judas

Iscariot is also likely to have been a radical member of the Zealots; the name

‘Iscariot’ coming from the word ‘sicarii’ or ‘dagger men’.

All of Jesus’ disciples would be feeling the heavy political oppression of Rome and

were no-doubt looking for a Messiah who would free them from it. And all of them

would know about the Maccabean Revolt

Every year at Chanukah the disciples would remember the how, around 167 – 160

BCE, a small band of Jews had taken to the hills of southern Israel to fight the

occupying Syrian Army. Now the disciples were a small band of Jews following

Messiah. Surely with the help of Jesus, they could overcome Rome as the

Maccabees had overcome Syria. This is what many, perhaps all of Jesus’ disciples

thought they were working towards.

This is why, after Peter has declared Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus taught his

disciples he must go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the Jewish leaders, die and

rise again.

This may be Jesus’ mission. It is not yet the mission of the disciples. Nothing has

prepared them of that kind of Messiah. A far more uncomfortable Messiah than the

political Messiah they were looking for.

No wonder Peter jumps in feet first to tell Jesus he must never suffer and die. Peter,

and the other disciples, may have known Jesus well, but they had never seen this

side of him. The Old Testament scriptures make it quite clear Messiah must suffer

and die, but the disciples didn’t understand.

Peter’s refusal to accept that, as Messiah, Jesus must suffer, die and rise from the

dead is what causes to become a stumbling block to Jesus.

A suffering, dying Messiah is not comfortable. Not for Peter and the other disciples;

not for us. We would like to avoid the pain and discomfort of Good Friday as much

as the disciples did, but that is not an option. Not if we are following Messiah Jesus,

whose Kingdom is so very different from the kingdoms we know.

Who do you say Jesus is? The question comes as clearly to us as it did to the

disciples. We will have our ideas about the answer, just as the disciples did.

Messiah showed his first disciples a different way. He continues to show those who

follow him a different way. We may think we know who Messiah is, and in part, we

do… but Jesus can still surprise his followers. He can still show us far more about

who he is. All we need to do is to be open to hearing who Jesus says he is, instead

of imposing our own expectations on him.

S Anne Lawson

26 August 2020


The Collect for the Twelfth Sunday After Trinity

Almighty and everlasting God,

you are always more ready to hear than we to pray

and to give more than either we desire or deserve;

pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things

of which our conscience is afraid

and giving us those good things

which we are not worthy to ask

but through the merits and mediation

of Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.


Post Communion Prayer

God of all mercy,

in this Eucharist you have set aside our sins

and given us your healing:

grant that we who are made whole in Christ

may bring that healing to this broken world,

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.


Prayers of Intercession

Lord, we pray for unity and peace in your church.

Increase our fellowship with one another

and our openness to others.

Give us the courage to proclaim the saving power of the cross.

May your church help to bring reconciliation and peace in your world.

Lord of glory,

grant us your peace.

We pray for peace in our hearts,

for peace in our communities,

for peace in your world,

that as much as possible we may live at peace with all people.

We pray for peace-keeping forces, for the United Nations.

We pray for the police and probation services.

We give thanks for all peacemakers.

We pray for all who offer your peace to this world.

Lord of glory,

grant us your peace.

We pray for all who are not at peace,

for those with broken homes and broken relationships.

We pray for the broken-hearted and the broken in spirit,

for places where there is a breakdown of peace or wellbeing,

for all who are being destroyed by hatred or revenge,

remembering all who have suffered from the violence of others.

Lord of glory,

grant us your peace.

Lord, when you come in your glory,

make us to be one with you and the saints who are now at peace.

Lord of glory,

grant us your peace.

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.


At the name of Jesus

Brother, sister let me serve you

Father, hear the prayer we offer

Father, Lord of all creation