Last week, in a real change of pace for this blog, I spent the whole week dealing with the lesson from Romans 12. Conveniently, the Gospel lessons for last week and this week actually work better together, so this week I’ll get to deal with them both all at once here.
To review, last week’s Gospel lesson was from Matthew 16:13-20. There we were in the third week of trying to answer the question “Who is Jesus?” On Proper 14, we heard the story of Jesus walking on water in which Peter twice calls Jesus “Lord.” The first time it is with some level of suspicion, “If it is you, Lord…” while the second time it comes in the voice of sheer terror, “Lord, save me!” We also are told that once Jesus safely the boat, the disciples worshiped Jesus calling him “the Son of God.” For Matthew, who is careful to not upset the Jewish Christians in his Church, who always talks of the “Kingdom of Heaven” rather than the “Kingdom of God” this title is very important. Jesus isn’t just any old Messiah-type person, and there were more than a few of them running around, but Jesus is the Son of God.
On Proper 15, the Canaanite Woman calls out to Jesus with still another title. Yes, he is “Lord,” but for this Gentile woman, he is also the “Son of David.” Here too we see Jesus being given a Messianic title, but this time it about the fulfillment of prophecy. As the Messiah, Jesus will restore the throne of David and God’s steadfast love will remain upon it forever (1 Chronicles 17:13).
Proper 16 begins the two-part story of Peter’s Confession, Jesus’ Passion Prediction, and Peter’s Rebuke. Here we see Jesus called not just Lord, but “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” While the Canaanite woman is praised for her faith, as an outsider, she didn’t quite have the big picture of who Jesus is. Peter, speaking on behalf of the disciples who have followed Jesus, more or less faithfully, for roughly two years, gets it perfectly right. Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God, the Son of David, the Son of Man, who has come to bring salvation to the whole world.
Which brings us to Proper 17, and our Gospel lesson for this Sunday, in which Jesus goes on to elaborate on just what it means that he is the Messiah. Being the Messiah means upsetting the status quo. It means being betrayed and arrested. It means enduring great suffering at the hands of the religious leaders. It means being killed by the Gentile occupiers. It means a bunch of stuff that Peter and the gang don’t want it to mean, but it also means Resurrection.
Jesus is the Messiah and the Messiah has power even over death. That’s who Jesus is, hard as it may be to hear and understand for Peter and, quite frankly, for us. As the story unfolds, we’ll learn more about what it means that Jesus is the Messiah, but for this week, we’ll have to sit with the confused disciples and try to understand how the Messiah can be killed and still be God.