Sermon + Discipleship In Three Steps


Pastor Brian Campbell’s sermon for August 30, the 13th Sunday after Pentecost on Matthew 16.21-28, Jesus predicting his death for the first time;, and giving three not so easy steps for discipleship.

This is an outline of my sermon text for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, on August 30, 2020. My focus was on the Gospel lesson, Matthew 16:21-28, which includes Jesus’ first Passion prediction, as well as Jesus providing three not-so-easy steps to be a disciple. + pBRC

May God guide us as we step out in faith, doing God’s work with our hands and hearts. AMEN.

  • Our Gospel lesson for today picks up where last Sunday’s ended.
    • Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” [A]
    • A New Testament professor of mine described this as the Lutheran definition of discipleship, because it answers the question, “What does this mean?
    • Jesus explains being the Messiah, the Son of the Living God requires his suffering and death in Jerusalem at the hands of the leaders of the very people He came to save.
      • Peter objects to what Jesus is describing because it does not fit with Peter’s expectation of how the Messiah, the Son of the Living God should act.
        • Peter expects the Messiah to unify Israel, and the Messiah can’t do that if they are suffering at the hands of elders and chief priests and scribes.
        • Peter expects the Messiah to be the one who frees Israel from their bondage to the Roman Empire, and the Messiah can’t do that if they are dead.
        • Peter expects the Messiah to act the way he believes the Messiah should act, even if it is the Messiah who is telling him something different.
          • Peter tells Jesus to do things Peter’s way, and avoid the suffering and death.
          • Peter challenges what it means to be the Messiah in a way similar to how Jesus was tempted by Satan.
          • Jesus rebukes Peter in that manner because Peter wants Jesus to conform to Peter’s idea of being the Messiah.
            • 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.[B]
          • The one who was the Rock and foundation of The Church has become a stumbling block, trying to trip up Jesus, and how to be the Messiah.
            • Jesus tells Peter his perspective is wrong.
            • The Messiah has come to do God’s will, not what Peter wants.
          • If you want to be Jesus’ disciple, you need to focus on God’s will, not your wants.
            • “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” [C]
            • Jesus gives us three things that we need to do if we aspire to be a follower of Jesus.
            • First, we need to deny our selves, especially our selfish selves.
              • You cannot be a follower of Jesus if you are putting yourself first.
                • That is the mistake Peter made. He put his vision of the Messiah ahead of Jesus’.
              • To follow Jesus, we must be willing to move out of our comfort zone, and embrace not having things done in the way we are used to or that is beneficial to us.
              • Denying ourselves includes denying those things that may benefit us.
              • We are living in times when the racism and bigotry that is built into society is easy to see for those who are willing to admit it.
                • If you are white, you generally have nothing to fear from police. If you are Black, you are more likely to suffer violence at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve everyone.
                • If you are male, you generally are acknowledged to know what you know. If you are a woman, you will have men explain your area of expertise to you and have others take credit for your ideas.
              • If we deny ourselves of the advantages society has given us because of the characteristics of our birth, of the demographic boxes checked for us, we can work to make society better and more just.
                • If we deny ourselves of the advantages society has given us, we don’t make our selves the kings of our kingdom, but are willing to serve others as members of God’s kin-dom.
                • What profit will it be for you if are the king of the world, if you have everything you want, but you deny others the opportunity to live their life?
              • Second, followers of Christ need to take up their cross.
                • We don’t realize how counter-cultural this would have sounded to His disciples.
                • The cross was the worst fate anyone could suffer.
                  • The Hebrew Scriptures call anyone who hangs from the cross to be cursed.
                  • Being crucified is still one of the most cruel ways to execute someone.
                  • The humiliation in this execution is complete because the victim carries the mechanism of their execution, the cross, on a parade through their town.
                • Taking up one’s cross means to be willing to endure total humiliation and suffer death for the sake of another or a cause.
                  • Taking up one’s cross means to face and endure total dishonor and degradation because it provides for an other.
                • What if we give up what we hold dear, what we treasure because it could provide for someone who does not have what we have?
                  • What if we sacrificed and surrendered what we think makes up our identity to provide for those who have been left behind, held back, and stepped upon?
                • What if we gave up what we think defines our life and we lose it?
                • What if we find we could provide life and opportunities for others and give ourselves a new perspective we otherwise would have never experienced?
              • Finally, to follow Christ, we must walk the path He trod, and that He calls us to take.
                • As is demonstrated in the disagreement between Peter and Jesus, it is obvious that the path that Jesus takes is not the path that we would expect.
                  • It is not the path we would choose. But it is the path we are called to take.
                • Following Jesus means we are going places we wouldn’t go on our own.
                • Following Jesus means we are going to the tomb, and from there to be raised.
                  • This means trusting in God’s goodness and that God’s promises are true.
                  • Following Jesus means that we have faith God will take care of us and protect us.
                    • If we are willing to trust God with protecting and providing our eternal life, why do we hesitate to trust God with protecting and providing for our life here?
                  • For us in the Covenant Churches at this time, we have the opportunity to embrace being a disciple of Jesus, denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him.
                    • We have to make the choice whether to follow Peter or follow Jesus.
                      • Do we have our minds on human things or divine things?
                      • Do we want to do what we want, or are we willing to embrace God’s will?
                      • Do we have limits on where we will go, where we will worship, or are we trust God?
                    • I’m not asking anyone to totally embrace everything in the report of the Futures Task Force. I’m not rejecting or repudiating anything they have done. But three and one-half pages of that report are a sketch of a possible future.
                      • What we are dealing with now is the recommendation to agree that the best way forward for the three Covenant Churches it to begin to discuss becoming One Church.
                      • I invite you to act in faith of what the Son of God has made possible, and not to act out of the fear this world brings into our very lives.
                    • I ask you to deny your self, and your wants and pick up the Cross of Christ, the ultimate symbol of obedience, to follow Him and to do the Creator’s will.



[A]    Matthew 16:15-16.

[B]     Matthew 16:23.

[C]    Matthew 16:24.


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