text: Matthew 16:13-20
A former Navy Seal was visiting his grandson’s kindergarten class, telling them about some of the things he did as a Navy Seal. Navy Seals are an elite group, special forces who do incredible courageous and brave things. After his presentation the teacher asks if there are any questions. A little hand shoots up and a small girl asks, “So, can you balance a ball at the end of your nose? Questions! Sometimes they throw us off!
Who is Jesus to you? What difference has Jesus made in your life? How are you different today because of Jesus? Those are questions that come to mind as we contemplate our Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 16.
Jesus is a story teller. His parables help us see past the mere surface of things and see deeper into the type of life God’s longs for us to live. He also knows how to ask searching questions. Questions that challenge our easy, shallow answers. Questions that penetrate beneath the surface of casual thinking. Questions that help us discover who He is and who we are in relation to Him.
Jesus has just finished caring for a Canaanite woman and her demon possessed daughter. He challenged the disciples to see outsiders differently and understand our human circles that we draw are small and exclusive. God’s circles are infinitely larger and inclusive. We tend to be afraid and critical of those who look, think and sound differently than us. We exclude them from God’s plan. God includes them and us through His plan of salvation through Jesus.
Now Jesus is returning to Jerusalem and is still in Gentile territory. It is a turning point in His ministry. The cross and the end goal of His sacrifice on our behalf is looming close. How well do they (and we) know and understand His purpose and mission in life?
So He asks, “What’s the rumor mill say about Me? What do people think about My mission as the Son of Man?” I do not believe He is asking out of curiosity, but inviting His disciples to think for themselves; as if to say, do you recognize what is happening here and what God is doing?
They answer saying folks believe You are a prophet like one of the greats—John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah. They see You as a great teacher!
Jesus then presses them by asking what they think about Him and His mission.
Peter blurts out, “You are God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. You are God’s Son.” By saying this Peter, knowingly or unknowingly recognizes that Jesus is more than just a mere man. He is the unique Son of God,God’s Anointed Savior for the world.
Jesus erupts with joy and praises Peter for his answer. He goes on to say that Peter did not discover this through book learning or talking to scholars and intellectuals. This insight comes from God. Recognizing who Jesus is and seeing His mission and purpose in life is a God thing—only God could reveal such an insight.
The Christian faith is not an accumulation of human thoughts and wisdom accrued over the years. Knowing God through Jesus is something only that the Holy Spirit can reveal to us. The gift of faith in Jesus is for everyone. God’s revelation is freely offered to all people. You do not need a diploma to believe and follow Jesus! Just an open, receptive heart.
Jesus then shocks Peter even more. Peter’s name up to this point is Simon, which in Hebrew means “to listen” or “hearing.” Now Jesus changes Peter’s name to “rock.” Jesus is saying that this man Simon who is brash and bold, and yet a coward; this man who is a fickle follower who fails to stand up for Jesus on the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest; this man who denies even knowing Jesus three times at Jesus mockery of a trial; this man Jesus calls “rock.”
Jesus says I am building My church—the body of Christ—on you and people like you.
Now throughout this passage “you” is second person singular, meaning Jesus is speaking specifically to Peter. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters understand this to mean Jesus is setting Peter up as the head authority of the Church on earth and gives Peter (and the papacy) complete authority on earth.
Jesus is not establishing the papacy, but rather emphasizing the rock solid faith that Peter has confessed as the foundation the Church is built upon.
Let’s take that one step further. Jesus is saying the foundation of the Church, the building blocks of the Church are fragile, frail followers of the Lamb who certainly don’t seem qualified to carry on Christ’s mission and ministry on earth.
Consider Peter’s track record. Look at ours! How qualified did Peter feel? How qualified are we to be a part of God’s plan for changing the world?
Bold, brash Peter drew a sword to “help” Jesus at His arrest on the night of His betrayal. But then he fled with the other disciples as Jesus was lead away under armed guard. Then during Jesus’ mockery of a trial, while Peter was warming himself at a fire, he denied even knowing Jesus. Three times. After the resurrection Peter felt like quitting and decided to do what he knew how to do. He went fishing. Jesus then reaffirms and commissions him as a disciple—a follower of the Lamb.
We often feel inadequate. We do not believe we should be God’s chosen ones to make Jesus and faith in Jesus known. Yet we are the building blocks of the church. Consider what Peter says in 1 Peter 2:5 where he calls us “living stones—built into a spiritual house…”
The Apostle Paul also reminds us that we are filled with God’s Spirit, 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you!”
Again in 2 Corinthians 3:1 he calls us “living letters” that others can read to see and know more about who Jesus is.
You are I know we are not perfect. “Christians are not perfect. We are forgiven.”
Most of us would be reluctant to stand out in the crowd and say “use me as an example of what it means to be a believer and follow Jesus.” We don’t feel qualified.
Yet in 1 Corinthians 4:7 and following verses Paul reminds us that we are clay pots—frail, fragile and flawed, yet we hold a precious treasure because of Christ within us.
What I believe Jesus is saying to Peter—and through this passage of Scripture to all of us—is that we are not only the body of Christ in this world, we are the building material and it is our faith and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord that becomes the foundation for the message we live out in real life and proclaim.
So once again consider these questions:
Who is Jesus to you? What difference has Jesus made in your life? How are you different today because of Jesus?
Are you willing to say, “yes, I am willing to serve You Lord again today!”
In Jesus’ name.