29 June 2020Matthew 16:13-19
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ (v. 13)
Psalm: Psalm 125
This almost feels like a riddle, some sort of catch question. I think there’s a reason.
I expect you’ve been in one of those situations where someone comes in and says, "People have been saying ..." It’s usually either a bit of gossip, or the person who’s speaking wants to say something themselves but doesn’t want to risk owning up to the fact. Jesus seems to be pre-empting the possibility. I was in a meeting recently when we were told to make our comments in the first person, "I think this", "this is my opinion". That puts you on the line; you are responsible for what’s being said. You can’t shift the blame. So Jesus asks, straight out, what have people been saying. There’s room for a free response. It’s non-threatening. And the disciples answer.
Only then does Jesus say, "But who do you say that I am?" And who should answer, but that risk-taking rock of a man, Peter. Straight in with no hesitation, brimming with confidence, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Peter gained a reputation for speaking first, thinking second. No hesitation, but totally owning his words. That’s the sort of commitment you need from a colleague, one who puts total faith in you. So in response Jesus replies, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." Peter’s later denial of Jesus in the courtyard after he had been arrested is often given as evidence of Peter being a bit flaky. But it is this part of his character that attracts me. I’m always weighing the evidence, not taking risks, missing opportunities, over-thinking things, it’s my nature. I sometimes need encouragement to act. For Peter it was different. He is affirmed first by Jesus, but then he’s given a warning. He’ll be significant, but with that comes responsibility. He’ll need to know that if he makes a hasty judgment it may last more than just for the moment, "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". Peter’s whole person is important to Jesus and he’s very human. He needed encouragement, but also constraint. The same is true of us. We are all important, yet still needing to remember the possibilities and limits of our personalities.
- What commitments have you made that later you’ve regretted or not been able to keep?
- Who do you need to affirm and how?