You are the Christ

MT 16:13-19

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?

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Evil Generation

LK 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

An evil generation. That just sticks with me. How can a generation be evil? And why would Jesus describe the current (at the time) generation evil? The people are asking for a sign because they do not truly want to believe Jesus. They are the doubting Thomas, asking for proof. In the back of my mind I am wondering what the difference is between this “evil” generation and poor Thomas. Was Thomas evil for wanting proof that his savior and lord was still alive? Are we evil if we begin to have doubts and ask God for signs or proofs? I’m not questioning my readers here, I am questioning in my heart. I believe this is one of those times where there is more behind Jesus’ meaning that it is not yet time for me to understand.

Jesus tells us that the only sign he will give is Jonah’s sign. What was Jonah’s sign? Jonah, our favorite friend of the whales. He journeyed, unwillingly at first, to the Ninevites to call them to repentance as God told him that the whole city was to be destroyed. It is no wonder that Jonah was a bit put out when God “changed” his mind when all of the Ninevites did repent and come back to God.

There are many parallels that Jesus is giving us to lead to his coming trials. For three days and nights Jonah was in the whale (or the belly of the sea-monster depending on your translation) just as Jesus was suffering after his crucifixion. Similarly, the Good News of Jesus’ return mirrors the good news that the repentance of the Ninevites heals their divide from God and saves them.

And who is this Queen of the South? This story comes to us from 1 Kings at the beginning of chapter 10. The Queen of the South travels a great distance to meet Solomon and to hear his wisdom. And what is Jesus telling us? There is something so much greater than Solomon here.

If we put it all together what is Jesus really telling us? Jonah was indignant after God’s compassion forgave the Ninevites. Why? Because he knew that God had such compassion for His people. He claimed that was why he wanted nothing to do with the ministry placed before him. In this way Jonah was made to be a sign for the Jews in that time that God’s love was for more than just the Jewish. He loves all of us. Even those of us that don’t accept His love.

What This Means To Me

When you really unpack this one I can just say one thing… wow. The evil generation wanted signs beyond the signs that Jonah gave. Jonah brought the Good News of God to the people of Ninevah. I think this is telling us that this should be enough. God in His goodness should be enough. “Testing” or asking God for “proof” of Himself or His love will likely be our downfall. Should knowing of the Good News be enough? No, I think Jesus’ mentioning of the Queen of the South should be a reminder that we need to seek the one out that is greater than Solomon. It is not enough to know of Jesus. We need to search him out. To bring ourselves closer to him. To recognize His goodness and compassion and love. Is it enough to call Him our Lord or our Savior if we do not follow in his path?

What do you get from this passage? What changes can you make in your life to bring this to the forefront?

Leaving Everything Behind

LK 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Reading this passage I get this image in my mind. I can’t help it. I don’t know how good of an analogy it is, but it works for me. I can see a father taking aside a rebellious teenager in order to bond and to bring him back into the way of the family. I see the teenager’s siblings looking on with jealousy and disbelief as the father gives this extra attention to the one who, in their opinion, didn’t deserve it. Honestly. The child causes so much trouble and discord and here he is being rewarded by more attention?

I can hear the indignation two thousand years later.

And really, isn’t that what the Pharisees are doing? Pointing fingers at the slight that they see without looking at the bigger picture. Part of the image I see in my mind is a disapproving father frowning and saying that he needs more help to come back to the good path.

Prodigal son, anyone?

What This Means To Me

Am I a jealous sibling or an accepting patient child? Am I a pharisee or a disciple? Am I jealous of the sinner’s attention or accepting that I am a sinner myself with just as much to work on?

The truth becomes another slap in the face. We see ourselves as good and holy, doing the right thing. How often is there a little voice in the back of our heads pointing out that we are more holy than others we see. I could be wrong but I believe it is only human to have the voice. Our way to perfection, in my opinion, is on how long we allow the voice to sow seeds of dissent before shushing it. After shushing it often enough, I’m sure it will become silent all together.

And that would bring us to where God wants us. Being His face to those around us. If we do not echo Him, or at least try to, how to we bring Him to those who cannot see Him?