What a joy to connect with you online! Thank you for your virtual presence as I reflect on the Gospel for today. Jesus asked one of the most important question in today’s reading. Our answer is crucial for the way we live our lives. Please, allow me to read it.
The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew the 16th chapter (13-20)
Glory to you, oh Lord.
“When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 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.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Praise to you, oh Christ!
Grace and peace are yours form God, our Father, and from his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord! Amen.
If there was someone besides my parents that showed me how important Jesus was for her, it was my great-grandma, Genoveva. Her love for me, even as a restless little kid (to say it softly), was unconditional. I felt safe sleeping cuddled by her, but I saw her love the most, when she daily, and at any time, opened her Bible. Her face lit up. When she finally went to be with the Lord at 107 years of age, my sister and I fought for who got to keep her Bible. She won. For my great-grandma Jesus was her Rock, her love, her delight, her strength. That is something to desire.
Jesus asked his disciples who people thought He was. Today we are asking the same question, and the answer is as diverse as it was then. We have conceptions of Jesus based on our own views, depending on culture, denominational upbringing, color of skin, and political views. We just have many conceptions of who Jesus is. And the main question still remains, what about for you? What does it matter to you to have your own understanding of who Jesus is? His disciples were defining what it meant for them, that he was the Messiah, the anointed one, the Cristos or the Christ.
Leonard Sweet comments about this, and I quote, “Jesus silenced his disciples because he knew they did not yet understand what his messianic identity meant. As first-century Jews the disciples would have melded “Messiah” with military might. “Messiah” meant political triumph. “Messiah” meant the reinstatement of Israel as a powerhouse nation, as well as a people.
The disciples needed to see other panoramas of “Messiah” before they could announce Jesus’ identity to the world. Jesus begins giving them … sneak-peeks at what “Messiah” means. Suffering. Rejection. Trial. Torment. Crucifixion. Death. Resurrection.” End of quote.
The disciples being Jews knew that there where many messiahs, priests, prophets, kings, and more. Then Peter’s declaration of Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, had implications for them directly. What about for us today? Does it mean that we need to take our work for justice to the point of being martyrs like the apostles? Not necessarily, but we shouldn’t hide under the bed either. I also want to mention the whole thing about Jesus’ statement about the Rock. What was that about?
William Barclay in his comments about this passage thinks there are four understandings:
First, he shares that Saint Augustine took the rock to mean Jesus himself. The second explanation is that the rock is the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. The third explanation is that the rock is Peter’s faith. And the fourth and last interpretation is still the best according to Barclay and I quote, “It is that Peter himself is the rock, but in a special sense. He is not the rock on which the Church is founded; that rock is God. He is the first stone of the whole Church. Peter was the first person on earth to discover who Jesus was; he was the first person to make the leap of faith and see in him the Son of the living God. In other words, Peter was the first member of the Church, and, in that sense, the whole Church is built on him. It is as if Jesus said to Peter: ‘Peter, you are the first person to grasp who I am; you are therefore the first stone, the foundation stone, the very beginning of the Church which I am founding.’ And in ages to come, everyone who makes the same discovery as Peter is another stone added into the edifice of the Church of Christ.”
The whole thing here is that we are also part of those rocks, forming the Church of Christ. A beautiful mixture of rocks, in whom Christ relies to build the Kingdom of love, justice and peace. God believes in us, trusts in us. How does that shape what we say to others, and about others? How does that inspire us to be doing God’s work? May the Spirit lead us in living that undeserved holy life.
Let us pray,
Loving and caring Jesus, we come to you in a time of so many crises; there are uncontrolled fires damaging part of our country, storms blowing and flooding other parts as well, and the pandemic is still affecting us physically, and emotionally. We need you, Messiah of the Living God! Lord, have mercy! Use us as your rocks here on earth in this time to be the church you need us to be. Give us wisdom to mend our divisions and sense of competition. Forgive us our sins and help us to delight in you. We put ourselves into your hands one more time, because your live and reign with the Creator of all, and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen.
Thank you for taking these minutes to listen to this reflection. I would appreciate hearing from you in a comment below. Thank you! …. Now, receive the benediction:
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen.
+ Bishop Pedro Suarez
Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA