25/8/02 6pm Trinity 13/Proper 16 Matthew 16:13-20
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" 14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 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. 19 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." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Perhaps the only television programme that we watch every week is Crime Scene Investigation Channel 5 Saturdays at 9 p.m. This involves forensic scientists investigating crimes, usually murder, looking for clues to find who has been murdered and how. As the murder victim is often unknown the theme tune is 'Who are you?' by The Who. Today's gospel reading centres on 'Who is Jesus?'.
First of all though, Jesus asks who people say that he is. This avoids immediately challenging the disciples but starts them thinking about this matter. 14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Some including Herod Antipas ( 14:2 ) thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. Others said Elijah because he was expected to return just before the coming of the Christ or Messiah. Others might have said Jeremiah because of Jesus' character and warnings about the judgment that God would send. Those who spoke of Jesus as a prophet, or spokesman of God may have been playing it safe as this was a more general term. However, some Jews did expect more prophets to come before the Messiah.
Jesus then makes the question personal to the disciples. 15 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" The answer to this question will determine the eternal destiny of everyone and the quality of life of those who are living now and in the future.
It is safe to assume that the disciples must have discussed the answer to this question many times. As usual Peter speaks for the disciples, although his words may have surprised some of his fellow disciples, and even himself! 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
This was a momentous event. For the first time someone publicly declared that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah. The words mean 'anointed one' in Greek and hebrew respectively. In the O.T. people and things were anointed with oil to show that they were consecrated to God. This included Kings. The Messiah the Jews expected had assumed a political and national meaning by this time. He would bring in a prosperous earthly kingdom by defeating the Romans ruling in righteousness and have a kingdom of peace.
Jesus realizes the significance of this declaration. After all, you could say that, despite Peter's ignorance about the type of Messiah Jesus was to be, this declaration made him the first Christian.
So that we do not deceive ourselves about the reason for Peter, and indeed anyone's confession of faith... 17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
But where does our free will come into this? D. L. Moody tried to resolve the apparent conflict between predestination and human freedom like this: "I come to the door of salvation and see written over it ` Whosoever will may come.' I enter the door, and look above it, and it says, `Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.'"
Because Peter, and you and I were chosen by God in eternity this can bring us enormous security and hope. Our salvation does not depend on our good works or ability to understand complex theology or our opinion of how good we are. It depends on the righteous blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross and our response to this act of grace, an acceptance that can only come through the work of God the Holy Spirit.
American chiropractor Dr. Brad Banks chose an unusual place to propose... 50 ft. underwater! After custom designing his own "one-of-a-kind" engagement ring at La Maison D'or, Dr. Banks gave girlfriend Christine the ring while scuba diving. Her reaction? She burst into tears, fogging up her face mask.
Underwater is an unusual place to propose marriage. Caesarea Philippi was an unusual place for the Messiah to be revealed for the first time.
Caesarea Philippi, literally Caesarea of Philip, was a town at the extreme northern boundary of Palestine, twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee, in a predominantly Gentile area. [ cf OHP map ]
Augustus Caesar presented it, with the surrounding country, to Herod the Great. Herod's son, Philip the Tetrarch, enlarged the town and named it Caesarea Philippi to distinguish it from the other Caesarea.
It is 1,150 feet above sea level and ten miles south of the 9,200 foot Mount Hermon. A major feature of the site is a massive rock face from which flows one of the streams that form the Jordan River. [ cf OHP - photos from http://www.ancientsandals.com/pictures/caesarea_philippi.htm ]
The first name associated with Caesarea Philippi was "Panias," derived from worship of the god Pan there during the period of Greek control following the conquest by Alexander the Great. (The current name "Banias" is an Arab form of Panias.)
Pagan worship was often conducted near running water and worship of the god Pan was centred at the cave and the spring at the high rock bluff. Several niches carved into the rock are identified as being dedicated "to Pan and the nymphs." OHP
Herod the Great built a temple there dedicated to Emperor Augustus, who had given him the town. So Peter's declaration was in stark contrast to the paganism that surrounded them when he made it.
From this information and these photos we can know that Caesarea Philippi was :
1) a pagan area worshipping many gods including Caesar and pan
2) the area was rocky with Mount Hermon towering in the distance.
Therefore, the words of Jesus seem even more appropriate, 18 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.
Let us look at the contrasts and the symbolism here.
Jesus had said, verse 17 "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
It was customary to call someone by their name and also the name of their father. Simon's name was now to change because of the work of Jesus' heavenly father. It wasn't unusual for someone to be renamed to reflect something about the person, so Jesus renamed Simon because he had declared that Jesus was the Christ..
The Greek word 'Petros' means 'detached rock'. Peter wasn't a proper name. So a better translation would be 'Rocky'! Simon had just described Jesus as the Christ, using a name to describe the character of Jesus. Now Jesus uses a word that will describe the character of Simon, 'Rocky'! He did this near to the rocky outcrop that towers above people that we have just seen on the OHP.
The fact that 'petros' means 'detached rock' could allude to the fact that one day Peter would be physically parted from Jesus, the stone the builders rejected and the cornerstone of the church ( 21:42, Ephesians 2:20 ). The name denotes firmness, solidity, stability, and Peter's confession has shown that the name is appropriate. Peter still had a long way to go before he would be a rock, but Jesus saw his potential, what he would be in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some have suggested that Peter's declaration was the rock that Jesus was talking about. This seems to go against the obvious meaning and doesn't in any way detract from Jesus being the focus of the Christian faith.
Lenny Bruce, American comedian. "Every day, people are straying away from the church and going back to God."
The thought behind these words, and something that many people believe, is that you can be a Christian without being part of the church. Whilst it is true in a sense, for example if you were stranded on a desert island, it would not be ideal. It is like a soldier without an army; a student who will not attend school, a salesman without a customer, a sailor without a ship, a bee without a hive, an author without a reader, or a soccer player without a team. If these want to fulfil their potential they need others. If we as Christians want to reach our full potential and further God's kingdom we need other believers, the church.
18 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.
For the first time, Jesus announced His purpose to build a Church. The Greek word 'ekklesia' is translated church. It doesn't refer to a building but a gathering of people who have been called out from the world to worship and to live for Jesus. This contrasted with the temples of pagan worship nearby.
I have heard it said that the church is a human invention and was not planned by Jesus, but verse 18 clearly disproves this. God, in Jesus invented the church and it is sinful for anyone who calls his/herself a Christian not to be an active member of the church.
When Jesus said 'the gates of Hades will not overcome it.' this was in an area where there were pagan temples. You may imagine how overwhelmed Peter might have felt as he was told that the church would be built on him, especially surrounded by pagan temples! But he probably was, and we certainly can be, reassured by this promise of Jesus.
When I need to enter our house I get out my key ring, select the right keys, put them in the lock and turn them to open the door. 19 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." The knowledge and proclamation of the good news would be the key into God's kingdom that would be entrusted to Peter and the other disciples in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was demonstrated on the day of Pentecost when 3,000 people came in through the door of faith following Peter's first sermon.
'Binding' and 'loosing' refer to the authority given to the apostles in the early church. This revealed Jesus' standards and provisions for His church, enabled them to declare forgiveness in Jesus' name and sometimes involved supernatural insight to expose someone's motives. Ananias and Sapphira ( Acts 5 ) are examples of people being 'bound'. The Ethiopian eunuch could be cited as an example of someone loosed - from their sins ( Acts 8 ). It is not that the disciples had the power to do these things themselves, but they were authorized by Jesus to do them on his behalf. Like an ambassador representing and acting on behalf of a country.
20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
After such an important event why would Jesus discourage the disciples from telling the good news to others? The reason for this is that Jesus was not going to meet the Messianic hopes of his countrymen that I outlined earlier. His reign would be in people's hearts for ever, not on an earthly throne for a few years. His victory would be won by dying for everyone on a cross, not by killing foreigners on a battlefield. Jesus had to break this news to the disciples, something we will look at next week cf. verse 21. Not even Peter fully realized the significance of Jesus teaching about his death until after the resurrection.
Late one December, a primary school headmaster said to his teachers: "Let's all write our New Year's Resolutions about how we can be better teachers, and I'll put them on the staff bulletin board. In that way, we can be mutually supportive in our efforts to keep those resolutions." The teachers agreed, and when the resolutions were posted, they all crowded around the bulletin board to read them. One of the young teachers in the group suddenly went into a fit of anger. She said, "He didn't put up my resolution. It was one of the first ones in. He doesn't care about me. That just shows what it's like around here." On and on she ranted and raved. The head, who overheard this from his office was mortified. He hadn't meant to exclude her resolution. Quickly rummaging through the papers on his desk, he found it and immediately went to the bulletin board and tacked it up. The resolution read: "I resolve not to let little things upset me anymore." There was a declaration, but no commitment!
We need to not only declare that Jesus is the Christ, God who died in our place on the cross, but also need to be committed to him as part of his body of believers here in Talke and throughout the world.