The Gospel today continues directly on from the one we listened to last week. The setting is still the very north of Israel – although the population was now much more pagan and gentile than Jewish. Jesus has taken the disciples away from the crowds to prepare them for the final journey to Jerusalem. He wanted to see what they had understood so far in all that he has taught them and who they say he is.
The Gospel begins with a phrase that we have heard before: “From that time on Jesus began to…” occurs just before he begins his public ministry by calling the first two disciples – Simon called Peter and Andrew. But now the more carefree days are over and there is a darkness across the path ahead. Yes, Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, but that is not going to mean what everybody thinks it will mean – hence there is need for secrecy. Jesus the Messiah is not going to be a new David and lead an armed revolution against the enemies of Israel and cleanse the corrupt leadership of the temple and Jerusalem. No – he is going to suffer and be killed.
We – like Peter and the other disciples – find it difficult to understand what the instruction by Jesus means for us. How are we to take up our cross and deny ourselves?
Sunday 22, Year A. Matthew 16:21-28