When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Go Peter! You rock! (Yes, I had to go there)
We have three stages to this reading. The first part is basically Jesus establishing a political poll. Jesus and his disciples have been going about, doing their thing, and he wants to know what the public opinion is. Is that what he is really looking for? This may be something of a personal opinion, but I think he just asks to give them a basis of judging the difference between that and his next question.
Who do you say that I am? There’s a loaded question. That’s like someone sidling up to you and asking… so what do you think of me? Warning bells should be going off at that point. You better watch out how you respond to that one. It’s up there with Does this dress make me look fat?
But does Simon Peter hesitate? Not so much that Matthew chose to let us know. He immediately comes out with, “You are the Christ!” What does that mean? We through it around like a full name. John Doe. Jesus Christ. Christ was not a last name, but a title. Christ means anointed, or annointed one. To be an annointed one in those days meant one thing. King. I read somewhere (please don’t question where because I have no idea) that if you go through the bible and everywhere you see Jesus Christ to read it to yourself as King Jesus. It can really change how you read some passages.
Jesus seemed to be pretty chuffed about that. Not because Peter was singing his praises, but because the only way he could know, to be truly certain, would be if God told him Himself. From there Jesus goes on to call Peter the rock that his church would be founded on. Not only is Peter the foundation of the church, be he also serves as a different definition of a rock. He is a stumbling block. By holding up to Jesus’ standards he will cause the wicked to stumble. But he also stumbles himself, especially in the garden when he fell asleep and later flees. He doesn’t know it at this time in the Gospel, but it is likely one of the reasons why he is to become the foundation of the church. He knows from his own flawed nature that we can repent our sins and be forgiven just as Jesus forgives him of his own doubts and fears. He gives him the keys to heaven. He basically establishes that Peter will tend the Kingdom of God. He will control the doors, he will declare who will be forgiven and not forgiven on earth as Jesus declares will be matched in Heaven. That’s a load of responsibility. Could you handle the knowledge that if you do not forgive someone looking for forgiveness, they will not be forgiven in Heaven? I don’t think I could carry that burden.
What This Means To Me
The biggest thing that grabs me from this passage is the second question. “Who do you say that I am?” When it comes right down to it, the opinions of others do not matter as long as it does not influence our own. But if everyone else around us chooses to disbelieve, do we have the strength to say, “You are the Christ! Son of the living God!” I would like to say yes, but I have not been put to the test to find out.
There is an old (super old) saying that naming something gives it power. In a way it is true. If you come out and say that you believe that Jesus is Christ, King, where do you go from there? It colors your whole world. You just admitted that Jesus is your King. Can you follow that with immoral behavior? Can you support infanticide, or abortion? Or any types of killing? Jesus when being captured in the garden rebukes the violence and heals the ear of one of his captors. If this is what our King does, how do we follow that up? Can we forgive those who wrong us? Can we repair the damages down by others for no other reason than the fact that it was wrong and done in our name?
Jesus gave his life to save us from our sins. Can we do the same for our neighbors? Jesus did command us to love God and our neighbor as our selves. Can we sacrifice ourselves to save our neighbors as Jesus sacrificed Himself to save us?
I know how I would like to answer that, but deep down I’m not certain I’m ready for God to test me on it.
What do you get from this passage? What changes can you make in your life to bring this to the forefront?