The Season after Pentecost: Proper 17 Year A

The cost of discipleship

  • Exodus 3:1-15
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
  • Romans 12:9-21
  • Matthew 16:21-28

After Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16), Jesus reveals the ultimate purpose of his ministry. These words prove hard to accept, even for a disciple whom Jesus has called a “rock.”

Both Jesus and Paul present bold, difficult challenges in these readings – some would say, as Peter did, too difficult and unnecessary. Jesus’ directive to deny the self and lose one’s life in order to find it is made specific in Paul’s exhortations about living a Christian life. It is easy to focus on the most radical part of Paul’s teaching – feeding one’s enemies – and then give up in defeat. But in through such actions are the outcome of a life loved according to Romans 12:9-13: loving genuinely, persevering in prayer, serving God. Only by these daily acts of self denial is one strengthened to do the heroic when called upon. And only through daily losing one’s life can one understand and accept the role of suffering in Jesus’ life as Messiah and in our lives as Christians.

In verses 24-27 of Matthew, Jesus goes on to describe what true discipleship is all about. First of all, the most constant duty of a disciple is to follow (4:19). If Jesus himself must suffer in a world where redemption comes through sacrificial love nailed to a cross, whoever attempts to follow Jesus must be ready to do likewise.

For reflection:

  • As you read the Gospel passage, why do you think Jesus pulled Peter aside and rebuked him? What misconceptions did Peter adn the other disciples have about the Messiahship of Jesus? What difficulties do we have today in understanding the meaning of the life and ministry of Christ?
  • What is required of those who would follow Jesus? What does it mean to lose your life in order to find it?
  • What do today’s passages (including the one about Moses from Exodus) tell us about following God’s call? What changes do you need to make in your own life in order to follow God’s call for you?
  • The prayer appointed for Fridays in the liturgy for Morning Prayer expresses the concept of the cost of discipleship (BCP 56).
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About Sharon Ely Pearson

Editor and Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated
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