Last week we read:

 Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.


It seemed like Peter finally got it.  The wonderful and impetuous apostle Peter, alone among the disciples, is able to see Jesus as the Messiah.  However, as much as Peter seems to have ‘Got It’… he didn’t.  Peter knew Jesus was the Messiah, but what he struggles with is what that means.

Peter has preconceived notions of what that Messiah looks like.  And Peter’s Messiah is definitely not one who suffers. Peter, the disciples and Jesus lived in an occupied country, under oppressive Roman rule.  We assume that he would have wanted freedom from Rome, his country back under Jewish rule, that he’d want things back the way that they were in the Good Ol’ Days under King David.   The common hope was that in time a messiah would be sent to restore Israel and make this happen.

Perhaps you find yourself smiling indulgently, because we know what really happens and it is not what Peter expects.  But before we judge Peter too harshly, don’t we do the same thing? Do we each not have our own ideas of what the Messiah should be and should do? 

Of what we want the Messiah to be?  One who restores the glory of our church?  One who brings corrupt governments and evil people to their knees?   One who saves people from earthquake, famine and flood?  A messiah who favours his people and grants the prayers of those who believe?   A Messiah who shows once and for all who is the one true God

For each of us it is different, but I think there are for each of us, expectations of what we think a Messiah SHOULD do…and doesn’t. Just as there are things that the Messiah does allow that we think he shouldn’t.  Parts of the bible, or even parts of Christ teaching we’d rather not discuss.

However, Jesus didn’t abide by our, or Peter’s, pre-conceived notions… Jesus occasionally snapped at the disciples, called foreigners names, lost his temper and emphasized a Messianic understanding based on suffering, rejection and death…Jesus did lots of things that our perfect Sunday School Jesus would never do.

Our preconceived notions are just that notions, not truths.  And when Peter challenges his Messiah for not behaving as a Messiah should, he is quickly rebuked. 

“Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”


Peter doesn’t want a Messiah who sacrifices, he wants a Messiah who triumphs…in worldly ways.  Peter doesn’t understand what Jesus idea of triumph is, he isn’t yet able to comprehend the power that sacrificial living has to transform the world. 

Peter has set his mind on human things not divine things.

            Just like us, and we have a huge advantage over Peter.   Each Sunday our readings span thousands of years of faith history and we get the benefit of reading what happened before and after the crucifixion.  We get to see the arch of God’s relationship with people from Genesis to Revelation.  We get to read of the world that needed a Messiah, the world he was born in and died for, and we get to read of the formation of the church and what they did next.

            We read last week, how Paul taught the infant church about the importance of being a living sacrifice, and about being transformed to follow God’s will and wisdom rather than the that of the world the church lived in.  We got to hear Paul’s exhortation on being a living sacrifice, and today we continue that reading with Paul’s discuss on how one ought to do that.        

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

In other words be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable….not conforming by transformed.  That is what we are called to do by Paul; who began his faith journey persecuting the church, then having his mind and faith transformed by Christ on that blinding encounter in Damascus, then over time learning to became the living sacrifice he preached about.

“If any want to become my followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Paul’s journey wasn’t easy.  Peter’s journey building up the infant church wasn’t easy and often enough our journey isn’t easy.  It can feel like a cross some days, to follow Christ’s lead.  It’s challenging to love one another, because the love Christ calls for is, as Paul puts it, genuine.  .  We aren’t just paying lip service here…we are supposed to mean what we say and that can be hard.


            That’s where the concept of transforming your minds comes in from last week.  To be able to take up our cross, to be a living sacrifice, to be genuine, takes practice.  Sometimes a lot of practice.  We don’t always want to bless those who persecute us.  Sometimes we want to curse our enemies.  Sometimes we gotten tired of weeping alongside others. Sometimes, we do want revenge…not justice, revenge…to hurt those who have hurt us.  Christian faith, sacrificial faith is not easy and that rock that often causes us to stumble is ourselves.  What we want.  What we desire.  Our notions and expectations of what it means to follow Christ.

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying,

‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’

God forbid?  God’s will be done!

 Our concept, our expectations of what feels right and what feels wrong is not always to be relied upon.   God’s will is often contrary to our own, and what God is calling us to is not always where we want to go.

            So, we must practice.  Listen.  Pray.  Build relationship.  Live in community.  So that, together, we can ensure that we are walking the right road.  That we are on that proverbial straight and narrow path to God’s will, rather than stumbling along on our own wayward ways.



Set your mind on divine things, rather than human things, be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may discern the will of God.

Last week and this fit together.  Denying yourself to take up your cross isn’t a call to stop existing as an individual, it is a call to start transforming yourself.  To recognize that your expectations of God, of the Messiah, of what you think should or shouldn’t be may not be the be all and end all.  Taking up your cross, being a living sacrifice isn’t a call to death, but a call to life.

            A life lived in such a way as to bring life, abundant, genuine loving life to all people.

So that those in need, the stranger, those grieve, those who hate you all have the opportunity to be transformed themselves.  So that we are not people who cause others to stumble, but rather those who build up others. 

Therefore as we said last week, I say again this week.

“I appeal to you therefore, …, to present your(self) as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, … be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God.”