You have seduced me O Lord, and I have allowed myself to be seduced. Perhaps Simon, the hero of the Gospel last Sunday, took these words of Jeremiah to heart when after one of his rare triumphs, he so quickly falls from grace. It must have really been something – after being praised so highly and then renamed and commissioned to be the rock upon which this new community of God’s people would find their identity – and then to be told to get back into your place behind Jesus, because the suggestions that you thought were so good and logical and sensible are apparently enough to be rebuked as ‘satan’! After all, since Simon loves the Lord so much, it is only natural that the Messiah should now make his way down through the region of Galilee where Jesus has done so much good – teaching, healing, feeding thousands of people – people who would readily support Jesus as the true Messiah and rightful king. They could easily have organised a sizeable force which could easily have overthrown the small Roman garrison in Jerusalem and established Jesus there. Instead, when Jesus declares that the only way forward for him was the way of suffering, defeat and death – it must have seemed madness.
Yet what Jesus was so very clear about – was what the will of the Father was for him. His prayer was never attempting to cajole the Father into letting Jesus have his own way – and the way of discipleship that Jesus is giving to his followers then and now is the same. The way of the kingdom of God can never begin with my plans and my desires. As the old joke goes – how do we make God laugh? Answer: tell him your plans. Or in Simon’s case: how do you provoke a rebuke from God? Tell him that the true way of life does not involve denial, suffering, death and the cross.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (6’59”)
Sunday 22, Year A.
Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27