SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
August 31, 2008 (Lectionary 22)
Psalm 26:1-8 (3)
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b (1, 45)
1. CONTEXT: Matthew 16:21-28
A. The Place is important. Jesus goes outside Israel for the first time, to
the region round Caesarea Philippi, 20 mi. N of Lake Galilee in the Tyrian
hills. The city was founded by Philip, brother of Herod Antipas, and is
referred to as "Philippi" to distinguish it from that Caesarea on the
coastline just south of the Syrian border.
The move to a pagan venue is Mark's sign of retreat from public ministry; and the beginning of Jesus' preparation for passion (cf., e.g., F.W. Beare,
The Earliest Records of Jesus, p. 136; also Julius Schniewind,Das
Evangelium Nach Markus, pp. 114ff.: the early christians knew that from
Caesarea Philippi, the messiah takes the way of the cross and subverts the
Luke omits the place reference; Jesus "was praying alone."
Matthew adds that Jesus must "go to Jerusalem." Thomas Talley, in The
Origins of the Liturgical Yearl, connects the gospels to centers of the
early church; Matthew is connected with Jerusalem from early times. This
connection blossoms in the 4th Century when Cyril historicizes the
liturgical year in his Catechetical Lectures and as recorded in the
Pilgrimage of Egeria, a woman who kept a journal of her experience en
route from her native Gaul to Palestinian churches.
Before Talley, Philip Carrington (The Primitive Christian Calendar) showed
Mark and Matthew as lectionaries in the early church, with the first
prophecy of the passion coming right before midsummer, which explains
the old date of August 6 for the Transfiguration. Our text closely relates
to the old reckoning in Year A, but in Year C the Lucan parallel (9:18-24) is
used as the Gospel for Pentecost 5 and the Marcan parallel (8:27-35) is
appointed for Peter and Paul (June 29).
B. This Gospel lies between two important texts: the Confession of Peter
and the account of the Transfiguration.
Preceding our text is the confession of Peter, which Wilhelm Wrede used
as a key text to analyze the strange fact that Jesus calls for a shroud of
secrecy around his messianic ministry. Recently, scholars have been
divided regarding Jesus's self-designation as Messiah. Many see Jesus'
shift from the christos-answer of Peter to "huios tou anthropou" in his
reply as a deflection of the title "christ" and an allusion to his own
eschatogical hopes. The so-called supplement (Matthew 16:17-19) is out
of place and is not considered authentic.
Of the Transfiguration, Karl Barth said that the event coming "six days
after" the confession/prophecy is a "provisional fulfillment of the
promise that some will not taste death before the Kingdom of God comes."
The Transfiguration anticipates Easter in the disciples' lives; this "special
Sabbath" points to eschatological salvation (Preaching through the
Christian Year, pp. 139ff.).
Peter is sharply rebuked in our Gospel lesson, which shows that Jesus
would change the meaning of Messiah, no matter to whom it refers.
"Everything turns, not upon the title, but the content. And the title cannot
be filled with content until a certain history has been accomplished"
(Fuller, Mission and Achievement of Jesus, p. 110). If, as some hold (e.g.,
Beare, op.cit. , p. 137) , "we are inclined ...to look upon the little dialogue
of Mark 8:27-9 as an artificially contrived introduction to the prophecy of
the Passion," then we have to contend with a new interpretation of the
incident in Matthew.
2. Text: Matthew 16:21-28
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection:
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from 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, “Far be it from you, Lord!  This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance  to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus:
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life  will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
 16:22 Or “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!”
 16:23 Greek stumbling block
 16:25 The same Greek word can mean either soul or life, depending on the context; twice in this verse and twice in verse 26
21απο τοτε ηρξατο ο ιησους δεικνυειν τοις μαθηταις αυτου οτι δει αυτον εις ιεροσολυμα απελθειν και πολλα παθειν απο των πρεσβυτερων και αρχιερεων και γραμματεων και αποκτανθηναι και τη τριτη ημερα εγερθηναι. 22και προσλαβομενος αυτον ο πετρος ηρξατο επιτιμαν αυτω λεγων, ιλεως σοι, κυριε: ου μη εσται σοι τουτο.
23ο δε στραφεις ειπεν τω πετρω, υπαγε οπισω μου, σατανα: σκανδαλον ει εμου, οτι ου φρονεις τα του θεου αλλα τα των ανθρωπων. 24τοτε ο ιησους ειπεν τοις μαθηταις αυτου, ει τις θελει οπισω μου ελθειν, απαρνησασθω εαυτον και αρατω τον σταυρον αυτου και ακολουθειτω μοι. 25ος γαρ εαν θελη την ψυχην αυτου σωσαι απολεσει αυτην: ος δ αν απολεση την ψυχην αυτου ενεκεν εμου ευρησει αυτην. 26τι γαρ ωφεληθησεται ανθρωπος εαν τον κοσμον ολον κερδηση την δε ψυχην αυτου ζημιωθη; η τι δωσει ανθρωπος ανταλλαγμα της ψυχης αυτου; 27μελλει γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου ερχεσθαι εν τη δοξη του πατρος αυτου μετα των αγγελων αυτου, και τοτε αποδωσει εκαστω κατα την πραξιν αυτου. 28αμην λεγω υμιν οτι εισιν τινες των ωδε εστωτων οιτινες ου μη γευσωνται θανατου εως αν ιδωσιν τον υιον του ανθρωπου ερχομενον εν τη βασιλεια αυτου.
GreekBible.com Online Text Copyright Info
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
3. ANALYSIS: Matthew 16:21-28
Matthew 16:24 - the cross-saying is in the synoptic parallels but is most
closely paralleled at Luke 14:25-7. This is also in the Gospel of
Thomas,55, where we are called to "take up the cross in my Way."
16:25 - Remember that the Semitic sense of psyche includes life and soul;
hebrew nephesh lies below the text; the nephesh chayah of Genesis 2:7,
"living being" in RSV, means the whole person.
16:28 - This verse is paralleled at Mark 9:1 and at Luke 9:27. Here we have
a study in shifting NT interpretations. Mark speaks of the "kingdom of God
come with power (dynamis)," an eschatological hope of Jesus of Nazareth.
In the Lukan text, this saying is changed to the simple promise that we
will see "the Kingdom of God," probably meaning that we will experience
the era of Pentecost. In Matthew the text, reinterpreted, expresses early
christian hope in the second coming (cf. David Abernathy, Understanding
the Teachings of Jesus, pp. 4f., 148ff.).
3. STRATEGY: Matthew 16:21-28
Because this text is separated from its precursor we focus on the
prophecy of the passion in our proclamation.
We need assign no supernatural powers to Jesus; his ministry was
controversial enough that he would have been opposed by many and his
death sought by some. The prophecy is not predictive but is Jesus'
observation that forces now begin to gather against his ministry.
The passage offers strong evidence that Jesus believed (with the
Pharisees and against the Sadducees) in resurrection from the dead and
applied that to himself. The phrase "on the third day" is not significant; it
likely refers to a well-known saying at Hosea 6:2.
The sayings about the cost of discipleship in verses 24-8 must not be
spiritualized. Even if this passage is a "catena of sayings," they are
authentic with Jesus. If Mark arranged the order, he made a decision to
connect the disciple's mission to the ministry and death of Jesus. The
good news is that the resurrection is also granted to the disciples.
The conclusion (vss. 27f.) should be retained for preaching even if the
pericope ends at 26, since in these verses we hear that the coming
kingdom is near at hand; this eschatological note empowers our labor now,
this proleptic hope fuels contemporary ministries, even when we cannot
see their worth or tangible results.
James and Margaret Adams say the Pentecost pericopes propound an
alternative consciousness under five heads:
1. Awareness of the wholeness of life;
2. Appreciation of gifts rather than assignment of roles;
3. Hope of transformed social arrangements;
4. Focus on the rule of God rather than principalities and powers; and
5. Awareness that the Bible is to be read "from beneath" rather than
(cf. the chapter "Pentecost" in D.T.Hessel, Social Themes of the Christian Year, pp. 243ff.).
Surely this text can be viewed under headings 3 and 4 above with no
trouble, and under 2 with some work. As Neill Q. Hamilton says, "the
primary function of the gospel lessons in the pentecost season should be
to control the subjectivity of persons and congregations who give spiritual
reasons for avoiding responsibility for the whole will of God as displayed
in Jesusl...[which] includes responsibility for social justice" (Ibid., p. 222).
Our preaching focuses on discipleship of the cross which, for Jesus,
meant obedience to the will of God and for us means loyalty to his Word
and to his person into death and resurrection. This loyalty begins with
baptism as sacramentum, the oath of allegiance to Christ.
Abernathy, D. UNDERSTANDING THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS. NY:Seabury,1983.
Barth, Karl. PREACHING THROUGH THE CHRISTIAN YEAR. London: T. &. T.
Beare, F.W. THE EARLIEST RECORDS OF JESUS. NY: Abingdon, 1962.
Carrington, THE PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN CALENDAR. NY: Oxford, 1952.
Fuller, R. THE MISSION AND ACHIEVEMENT OF JESUS. London: SCM, 1960.
Hessel, SOCIAL THEMES OF THE CHRISTIAN YEAR. Phila.: Geneva, 1983.
Schniewind,J. DAS EVANGELIUM NACH MARKUS. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck
and Rupprecht, 1956.
Talley,T. THE ORIGINS OF THE LITURGICAL YEAR. NY: Pueblo, 1986.
5. WORSHIP SUGGESTIONS
In connection with the proclamation on Pentecost 15, you may want to
use an order such as the "Affirmation of the Vocation of Christians in the
World," from OCCASIONAL SERVICES (p. 147ff.) which accompany the
LUTHERAN BOOK OF WORSHIP, stressing Christian service as a priesthood
rooted in the covenant of baptism.
Three hymns seem especially appropriate to accompany the sermon:
TAKE UP YOUR CROSS, THE SAVIOR SAID (LBW 398,HB 675 )
LORD, WHOSE LOVE IN HUMBLE SERVICE (LBW 423.HB 610), and
THE SON OF GOD, OUR CHRIST (LBW 434).
Exegete: Jay C. Rochelle was formerly Lutheran Campus Minister at Yale
University as well as Dean of the Chapel at Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, IL.