Wednesday 29 June 2016

Bible Book:

“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)

Matthew 16:13-19 Wednesday 29 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm125


Today the Church celebrates St Peterand St Paul. Peter is believed to have been crucified some timeduring AD64. He is, among others, the patron saint of fishermen andshipbuilders. The day is a public holiday in Rome.

Today's passage comes after Jesuswarning the disciples against the yeast of the Pharisees andSadducees (Matthew 16:1-12), that is, the negativeinfluence which they exercised.

Jesus and his disciples foundthemselves in the district of Caesarea Philippi. It was beyond theboundaries of Galilee and was ruled by Philip the Tetrarch, one ofHerod's sons. It was on the slopes of Mount Hermon. Traditionally,it was a place where many pagan gods had been worshipped. It wasGentile (non Jewish) country.

Jesus entered into a conversation withhis disciples as to his identity. The answers which the disciplesgave are significant. John the baptiser had recently been beheadedand some people thought that Jesus was John raised from the dead.Elijah and Jeremiah were two important prophets in Israel'shistory. And since there had not been any prophets in Israel forsome 400 years, people thought that Jesus must be one of them.

Then Jesus asked a more directquestion: the disciples had been with him for some time: who didthey think he was?

Peter answered the question: theMessiah, son of the living God. The word Messiah means 'anointedone'.

Jesus then went on to tell Peter thathe would be the foundation of the early Church. (Peter means'rock'). The reference to "the gates of Hades" (v. 18) means thatevil will not be victorious over the church. The "keys of thekingdom" (v. 19) means that Peter's witness will unlock the 'door'so that many people will come to follow Jesus because of him. The"binding'" and "loosing" in verse 19 come from the rabbinictradition, where rabbis had authority to allow (bind) or prohibit(loose) certain forms of conduct. So Peter's confession broughtwith it a set of responsibilities.

The chapter ends with Jesus rebukingPeter for not fully understanding that Jesus must die on the cross(Luke 16:21-27). And in the first part ofchapter 17 Jesus revealed himself in a mysterious way on themountain of transfiguration (Luke17:1-13).

Jesus' question to his disciples isimportant for followers today. One's answer to the question as toJesus' identity challenges people to think about who Jesus reallyis for them. And all those who come after Peter, are to continuethe work which he carried out 2,000 years ago. And despite Peter'sconfession and Jesus' instructions to him, he made plenty ofmistakes along the way.

The hymn writer John Newton, must havegiven some thought to the question of who Jesus was, for he refersto Jesus as: "My shepherd, brother, friend, my prophet, priest andking, my Lord, my life, my way, my end" (StF 322).

To Ponder

  • How would you answer the question: "Who do you say that Iam?"
  • How does Peter's life of faith and failure encourage you as adisciple in the 21st century? 
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