Sermon -


NRSV MATTHEW 16:21-23, JESUS Suffering, Peter as a stumbling block

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “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.”


24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”


Last week Jesus gave Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of heaven. He gave Peter all kinds of power. He gave you and I the same keys and the same power because God revealed and opened our eyes to the identity of Jesus Christ.

 Last week Peter was moved by the Holy Spirit to pronounce the result of his faith. This week we see how quickly evil can step in and how that evil even when it seems like the intention is admirable, honorable and stepping up… is quite easily disguised and forces us to take our eye off of the prize.

Jesus used every opportunity as a teaching moment. Did Peter get too big for his britches…we don’t know? Peter’s, “I’ll be the man and protect you from death” fell short though the intention was magnanimous he didn’t understand what had to happen to Jesus in order for the ministry the disciples to begin.

If Jesus had just been swooped up to heaven, the relationship between us and God would not have been restored and it would have been perceived as a magical trick. If Jesus had just died on the cross it would have been just a good man suffering. The messiah, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to be tortured and crucified and then rise from that death 2000 years ago for the disciples and each of us, the WORLD, so that our sins are forgiven, our eyes and hearts opened so we might perceive and know who Jesus is. Jesus renewed our relationship with God. Only in a new relationship could the disciples and our calls to ministry in the name of Jesus Christ begin to roll.

I played a lot of volleyball when I was in my twenties. I had the great privilege of playing with a teacher from the Plymouth-Whitemarsh school district who taught Spanish. When he had played on the Brazilian Olympic Gold medal volleyball team. He was a tad shorter than I, if that is even possible, he was an older gentleman in his 50’s, now I would say a young man, and I asked him how in the world did you play a game of giants?  He said that his job was to set the ball so the “giants” could spike the ball. He was to dig the ball out and to set from that dig or take the second pass to set softly and deftly to anywhere on the front line. When folks took a break he showed me some of the finer points of what he spoke of…he taught me how to serve, how to dig, how to set and how to win. He taught me so I could be on the other side and make the games “fair”…so he wouldn’t win all the time.  I know that he just toyed with us but he showed me that you couldn’t spike a ball if the set wasn’t good. You needed both to win the point…sometimes…when we all thought we knew the game and how to play he, just when we thought “we’ve got this he would deek us and just plop the ball over the net where we all moved from…then to spots that we vacated … just a simple deek and point in his favor. He humbled us. Showing us there was still plenty to learn.

Jesus showed and continues to show that there is way for all of us to participate in his ministry regardless of our stature, our education, gender or age. He calls us to remember his teachings all of them. He shows that our hearts must be transformed and transformed continually. Jesus calls us all to join him and it is not just a once and done thing. Our faith most certainly is the foundation but we must build on it.  In a sense we are stepping on to the volleyball court, young-old, short-tall, male-female. Once there, Jesus can teach and we can learn to execute. Our execution must be done with the understanding that there is much to learn and we will not get it right all of the time.

We should, as the Apostle Paul states in Romans 12, Love one another with mutual affection (Love our neighbors as ourselves). We must be genuine in our Love and hate what is evil holding fast to what is good! We cannot be haphazard in our faith we must be zealous, passionate and be filled with the spirit to serve the Lord. We must use our resources to contribute so the ministries here can be performed fully and so we can extend hospitality to strangers. Every person that walks in this door is going to have their heart changed. Those people may be family members, fellow church members, visitors or they may be seeking with this being the chance the Holy Spirit has to work at changing, enlivening and energizing ones heart! It may be an enemy or one that persecutes us for the faith that we have. We are called to bless them and not curse them. We are called to live in harmony, open our hearts to everyone equally, rejoice when one of our family rejoices and weep when they weep. We are called not to be vengeful but to live in peace with everyone. To be humble and be patient in suffering and pray with perseverance! We are moved to remember, that, and I paraphrase the Rev. Billy Graham, (“Does the Holy Spirit Live in You?, Rev. Billy Graham, 4/30/2009. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

It is God’s job to judge,

     the Holy Spirit’s to Convict,

         Jesus Christ’s to save, and

              our call, our mission, our passion to Love.”

These are the marks of the True Christian, the True Follower of Christ but that is not all. It builds on our faith foundation. We must allow our hearts to be changed, enlivened, energized and strengthened by the Holy Spirit each and every day, especially in this place, especially today! With changed hearts and new strength we will seek out God’s teachings through studying God’s word. We will yearn for the opportunity to preach the good news to any and all around us. We will be humbled in the presence of an all omnipotent and yet giving and loving God that sent his son to die so that we might live and take up our cross, not his but ours, and follow him. God’s grace was not cheap and his words not empty. For his... is a promise of eternal life and we need only to follow too and he will lead the way.

My brothers and sisters,

pray often, listen continuously, Love deeper and keep your eye on the prize.

Be open to the spirt moving you to use your time,

talents and giving to further the kingdom of God.

Do not be distracted by evil or other idols placed in front of you

for if God is for you who can be against you? Amen.


  • New Interpreters Bible, Abington Press
  • NRSV Bible, Abington Press
  • Ancient Christian Commentaries, Inter Varsity
  • Book of Confessions, WJK
  • Feasting on the Word, WJK
  • “Does the Holy Spirit Live in You?, Rev. Billy Graham, 4/30/2009. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association


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