Sunday 27th August (Ordinary 21)
Psalm 124; Exodus 1 : 8 – 2 : 10; Romans 12 : 1 – 8; Matthew 16 : 13 – 20
by Local Preacher, David Bainbridge (Horfield).
Jesus asks his disciples, “who do people say the son of man is?’’ The response was, ‘’some people think you are John the Baptist, some think you are Elijah, others think you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’’ If people believed him to be a prophet, then at least they had understood something important about him. He would certainly challenge them as a prophet but also lead them in new and unexpected ways. But then came the all-important question, “who do you say that I am?’’ It’s not surprising that Peter was the one to answer, and although he often got it wrong this time, he was right. “You are the Christ son of the living God.” It was the right answer, but it had the wrong idea behind it as his later behaviour would show. He still expected Jesus to behave in a certain way, more in keeping with the expectations most Jews had for their Messiah. More the conquering hero than the man who would suffer and die for his people. Yet Peter’s affirmation demanded commitment and brought responsibility. He was given the keys of the Kingdom. These keys were a powerful symbol of authority and responsibility. The keys to bind and loose were part of Jewish culture and a key was presented to those who had completed their courses of study in law.
I recall in my youth listening to some preachers who were strong on judgment but short on grace, which left me wondering whether Peter would ever let me through those gates. Coming from a farming background we would only do what was deemed to be essential work on a Sunday – feeding animals. Harvesting hay was not permissible despite the vagaries of weather on the northern Pennines. It didn’t matter if you risked a ruined crop because you failed to take advantage of a fine Sunday during a wet summer. I’ve seen this happen with the crop, exposed to the weather ruined and animals having to be fed with hay that was dusty and most unpalatable with no protein value at all. The poor cattle had to suffer, and, in my view, it was an example of too much binding.
Jesus, of course, didn’t hesitate to challenge behaviour that violated God’s law, but it was done in a spirit of love. He didn’t wait for people to repent before showing that he really cared for them. He didn’t wait for them to change their behaviour before having dinner with them or touching them and healing them. and by his example, he was showing his disciples how to use the keys that were entrusted to them, that their real purpose was not to punish or exact revenge but to open the door to the kingdom of God. We are called to speak out on issues that we feel are against God’s will and challenge behaviour that is harmful but if we hold to the example of Jesus then we do it in love. Our prime motivation being to liberate, to use the keys we have been given to open the door to the Kingdom of God and the last word should always be that of Jesus on the cross, one of forgiveness.
Heavenly Father, we seek your wisdom guidance courage and strength to speak out in love against all that is against your will and to affirm and encourage all that accords with the values of your Kingdom.