Sunday 27 August 2017

Bible Book:

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” (v. 15)

Matthew 16:13-20 Sunday 27 August 2017

Psalm: Psalm124


Questions about Jesus' identity fill the Gospels,and Matthew's is no exception. The complex genealogy at thebeginning is exploring this question of who Jesus is (Matthew 1:1-17), and the exploration continueshere.

The figures of the prophets Elijah, Jeremiah, andof John the Baptist place Jesus in Jewish company: the identity ofJesus is bound up with Israel's experience of the nature andpurposes of God, and faithfulness to them.

The geography also presses a question. The passagelocates this moment in a definite setting: "the district ofCaesarea Philippi" (v. 13) (the modern city of Banias in thedisputed Golan Heights territory between Israel and Syria). Rome,empire and imperial rule inevitably hang over a conversation aboutwho Jesus is, located near a city named in honour of CaesarAugustus. Jesus' identity cannot be disentangled either from God'sstory with Israel or from the ruling powers of the day.

So when Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah(verse 16), God's anointed one, there's at least a hint of achallenge to the status quo in the air. In Jewish terms, anointingis how a king is proclaimed and inaugurated. So the subsequent talkabout keys and kingdoms, binding and loosing, has the potential toraise some excitement in the disciples: what if this is the momentwhen Roman swords will be laid down before the one true power inthe universe?

The subsequent verses show how Jesus begins tore-shape and re-direct that excitement (Matthew 16:21-27). The need for this becomesclear later, as the disciples jostle for position and influence (Matthew 20:20-28): how they understand whoJesus is - and who they are in relation to him - carries a risk ofsimply replacing one empire with another in the same guise.

Who we say Jesus is might lead us to look at howwe 'locate' ourselves in the light of our answer: in relation tothe story of God with God's people; and in relation to the powers('empires'?) that shape our lives and our thinking today.

To Ponder

  • In the light of Jesus' question what would you say, at thispoint in your life, about why you believe in him, trust him, followhim?
  • What are the most important sources for your sense of who Jesusis? Have they always been the same, or changed over time?
  • Has who Jesus is for you ever led you to consider taking astand against something in contemporary life, culture or politics?How, and why?
Previous Page Saturday 09 September 2017
Next Page Monday 28 August 2017