Matthew 16:1-20

Gospel Readings:

Matthew 16:1-4
Matthew 16:5-12
Matthew 16:13-20

Devotion 1

Wait: Take time to sit in silence together, allowing space for God’s voice to be heard.

Read: Matthew 16:1-4

Jesus is approached by the Pharisees and Sadducees, who come “to test Jesus.” This recalls Matthew 4:1-11, where the same word (peirazó) is used to speak of Satan’s tempting of Jesus. Here, the Pharisees and Sadducees tempt Jesus to provide a spectacular show of God’s power, that they might know that Jesus is truly God’s agent. Will Jesus accommodate their demands? Will he give a miraculous sign, giving irrefutable evidence that he is acting by God’s power? What would the Pharisee’s and Sadducees do with such a demonstration? Would they finally acknowledge Jesus’ authority? Would they invite him to share in their status amongst the ruling elite? If we follow this scenario through, we would need to ask whether Jesus would have any word of good news left for the poor, the mourning, and the meek (Mt 5:3-12.

But Jesus does not give in to their demand. Jesus’ opponents have had all the opportunities they need to recognise that Jesus’ restorative, liberative activity is God’s work, but they cannot, they will not, because they are benefitting from the forces maintaining the people’s oppression.

Jesus cannot further God’s agenda through miraculous signs to “prove” himself. Only through faithfulness in living out God’s love and justice, even if it will mean being killed at the hands of the ruling powers, can Jesus live out God’s way. For only then can the way be open for resurrection.

Reflect:

  • Where have you seen God’s Spirit active this week?
  • Where have you seen God’s Spirit resisted this week?
  • What will faithfulness mean in the midst of these “signs of the times”?

Pray

Share Communion 

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

 

Devotion 2

Wait: Take time to sit in silence together, aware of God’s presence in a broken world.

Read: Matthew 16:5-12

In the struggle for faith, the disciples seem caught between allegiance to the way of the Sadducees and Pharisees and allegiance to the way of Jesus. In warning them of the “yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus reminds them of the wilderness feedings and the number of baskets of leftovers at each feeding. The missing numbers in the answers to Jesus’ questions in verses 9 and 10—twelve and seven—might be seen to represent Israel and the nations. The Pharisees and Sadducees’ nationalism is confronted by the twin feedings in the wilderness, where there is abundance not only for Israel but for other subjugated nations.1 Jesus’ praxis overcomes nationalistic boundaries.

Reflect:

  • What significance do you think this reading might have had for Matthew’s community?
  • How do Jesus’ words in today’s reading encourage or challenge you?

Pray for one another.

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

1. Twelve is representative for the twelve tribes of Israel, while seven is symbolic of the seven Gentile nations (Deut 7:1)

Devotion 3

Wait: Take time to sit in the silence of repentance together, aware of our inadequacy and God’s grace.

Read: Matthew 16:13-20

This scene occurs as Jesus and his disciples come “into the district of Caesarea Philippi, a city named for imperial rule. Matthew’s community would remember that after the Jewish war some ten years earlier, Jewish captives were killed by beasts and gladiatorial fights—entertainment designed to present the Jews as defeated criminals destroyed for the good order, or peace, or the empire.2

The answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do people say that the Human One is?” places the “people” in the tradition of those who speak prophetic truth to such imperial power. Simon Peter’s answer goes even further: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In this declaration, Peter places Jesus in stark political opposition to Caesar, in whose honour is named the very ground on which they are standing. In Peter’s words, Jesus is a popular leader, or king, who will enact liberation for God’s oppressed people—in the face of one who was proclaimed by imperial theology as son of God—Caesar.

Reflect:

  • What strikes you in today’s reading?
  • What significance do you think this reading might have had for Matthew’s community?
  • In what ways does Peter’s declaration challenge the allegiances which you have?

Pray. for one another

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

2. Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins, 332.

Devotion 4

Wait: Take time to sit in the silence of gratitude together, giving thanks for the ways you’ve experienced God’s loving kindness.

This week’s Common Value: Discipleship

Read: Isaiah 50:4-11

Ask: What might following Jesus mean this week?

Pray

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer