Lent 2023 Day 4: Sat 25 Feb
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Now Peter is convinced. Remember that he wasn’t the first to realise who Jesus was – remember what his brother had said to him? Andrew had only then just spent a day with Jesus. Now Peter has been with Jesus for much longer and has been places and seen amazing things, all pointers to Jesus as more than just a prophet or an inspired teacher or a healer or a miracle-worker. And at this point, the point where Jesus asks that question, God’s Holy Spirit electrified all the pointers and energised Peter’s spiritual understanding with the truth – this man is the Messiah, the long-awaited, the apotheosis of the faith of Israel.
And no, he is not the warrior leading an army of thousands in battle that many have expected. He is the man I’ve been spending time with alongside the others, a gentle man, a kind man, a man who knows me and loves me. I do not know how he’s going to do it, how he’s going to win the battle, save the nation, restore his people, but he will.
Jesus was not necessarily expecting Peter to be the one to speak (look at his response to Peter) but he may have been hoping that Father God would place the truth about him on the heart of one of those present. What a bunch they were, with no clear idea who Jesus really was! The revelation came to Peter.
What follows can be interpreted a bit differently by the major Christian traditions. Peter’s name is derived from the word “rock”, and so Jesus performs a wordplay on it. What Jesus said in Aramaic was written down in Greek. Jesus told his disciples that he will build his Church. Some believe that Peter himself was instituted as the foundation stone of that church, leading to the doctrine of apostolic succession and all that. Others see Peter more simply as the first leader of the Early Church. He was not a priest!
The promise of the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the authority to bind and loose is, I believe, for us all, through the authority of Jesus. It might be dangerous for any denomination to reserve that exclusively for themselves.
Do you know who Jesus really is?
Who do you say he is?
Where does authority come from?
Father God, I thank you that you placed on Peter the truth of Jesus’ nature, that he is your Son and our Saviour. Show me how I can make that same declaration to those I meet. Amen