29 June 2013

Matthew 16:13-19

"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.'" (vv. 15-16)


Peter gets into trouble so often for his over eagerness and lack of thinking things through, that it is easy to forget the rock-like core to his discipleship.

In Matthew's Gospel a lot has happened by the time we get to chapter 16. Peter and the other disciples have heard a lot of teaching, seen lives transformed and spent a lot of time with Jesus. Yet still there is the question of who exactly Jesus is.

Tied up in that question "But who do you say that I am?" is how people of that time understood the word "Messiah" - possibly that is why Jesus rarely used the word himself. If the way a word is generally understood has changed then 'restoring' it is very difficult - we can think of many examples today (cool, wicked, and sick come immediately to mind).

It appears that "Messiah" had come to be understood in a political and military way that was quite different to what Jesus thought he should be about. Maybe Peter clarifies his use of Messiah as "the Son of the Living God" to show that he really does 'get' what Jesus is about.

When Peter shows that he really does 'get' it (in my nerdy computer programming days we would say when Peter really groked Jesus) then Jesus recognises it this and responds by praising Peter and giving him huge authority.

It makes me wonder what words we use that have changed their meaning and no longer adequately describe Jesus or his disciples. Perhaps we need to change our language to make it obvious to Jesus that we really do 'get' him and what words we should be using to challenge the world around us with the gospel message (good news).

To Ponder

  • Which words have changed their meaning so that you are no longer comfortable using them to describe Jesus or your faith?
  • Which words do you use to describe your discipleship, your allegiance to God that others may no longer understand as you do?
  • In which areas do you think people around us misunderstand who Jesus is and what the gospel is about? What can be done about it?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.