Lectionary Year A
September 1, 2002
Matthew 16:21-28

Step II: Disposition


This story reports a rather brief debate between Peter and Jesus. It makes me wonder whether Jesus was testing Peter, recently renamed or whether He is giving the disciples a reality check on His fate. And, why would our Savior call Peter Satan? That exclamation interferes with the movement in the narrative. Then, Jesus makes a pretty convincing argument, albeit, somewhat hypothetical, to make His point. Then, the final prediction has got to be something Jesus would not have said if He is in touch with the realities of His return. It must be a reporter’s addition.


Question marks and confessions of wondering above begin to interact with this pericope. Furthermore, I certainly doubt that such a Savior would call a follower “Satan”, or, for that matter, tell him to “get lost”. Is Jesus preparing His survivors to blame the elders, the priests and/or the scribes for His demise? Or, is this roll call of the Sanhedrin merely an additional litany of the coming realities of His passion? How much self disowning and cross carrying is prerequisite to following Jesus? Saving and losing ones life sounds right extreme. Does He mean it in totality? Could He be talking about salvation as opposed to preserving and/or destroying material liveliness? I sure hope so. Did some of those there standing by live to observe the return of the Messiah in and His Kingdom? Surely.

These musings seem to come from my own personal devotional life. I fear my Christology needs some help. Studying this text might provide me some of what it needs. It begins with a broad and general historical observation of what occupied the disciples and their Master these strategic days. Jesus makes an initially broad and general statement, regarding going to Jerusalem. It rapidly gets to a rather specific conversation. Peter objects, calling on God’s providence. Jesus refutes Peter and calls him what seems to be an unfavorable name. Then, He plays several "what if” scenarios that apparently conclude the debate. The several rhetorical questions get a bit of a boost with the “I tell you truly . . .” at the end of the story.

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