THEME: Identity and Purpose
The theme of the readings this week is God’s salvation – God’s protection, rescue and faithfulness to God’s promises.
The life of faith is lived in community, where many gifts support the body of Christ. In the Exodus account, women work together to oppose injustice and protect life.
The midwives disobey Pharaoh and call forth new life. Moses lives because of his mother, sister, and the daughter of Pharaoh.
In Matthew, Peter names Jesus for who he is, and a new community, the church, begins to take root.
Paul names the differing gifts that support the community, the body of Christ.
In today’s Gospel, we recall a high point in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. It represents a quantum leap in their understanding of who he really is, and it took them quite a while to come to this point. Yet even here, as subsequent events in the rest of the Gospel clearly indicate, they still did not fully understand the implications of what they had just begun to realise. We will see a clear indication of this in next Sunday’s Gospel reading.
The disciples answered Jesus’ question with the common view—that Jesus was one of the great prophets come back to life. This belief may have stemmed from Deuteronomy 18:18, where God said he would raise up a prophet from among the people. (John the Baptist’s Profile is in John 1, p. 1735; Elijah’s Profile is in 1 Kings 17, p. 525; and Jeremiah’s Profile is in Jeremiah 2, p. 1189.) Peter, however, confessed Jesus as divine and as the promised and long-awaited Messiah. If Jesus were to ask you this question, how would you answer? Is he your Lord and Messiah?
16:18 The rock on which Jesus would build his church has been identified as: (1) Jesus himself (his work of salvation by dying for us on the cross); (2) Peter (the first great leader in the church at Jerusalem); (3) the confession of faith that Peter gave and that all subsequent true believers would give. It seems most likely that the rock refers to Peter as the leader of the church. Just as Peter had revealed the true identity of Christ, so Jesus revealed Peter’s identity and role.
Later, Peter reminds Christians that they are the church built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4–6). All believers are joined into this church by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, the same faith that Peter expressed here (see also Ephesians 2:20, 21). Jesus praised Peter for his confession of faith. It is faith like Peter’s that is the foundation of Christ’s kingdom.
16:19 The meaning of this verse has been a subject of debate for centuries. Some say the “keys” represent the authority to carry out church discipline, legislation, and administration (18:15–18), while others say the keys give the authority to announce the forgiveness of sins (John 20:23). Still others say the keys may be the opportunity to bring people to the kingdom of heaven by presenting them with the message of salvation found in God’s Word (Acts 15:7–9). The religious leaders thought they held the keys of the kingdom, and they tried to shut some people out. We cannot decide to open or close the kingdom of heaven for others, but God uses us to help others find the way inside. To all who believe in Christ and obey his words, the kingdom doors are swung wide open.
16:20 Jesus warned the disciples not to publicize Peter’s confession because they did not yet fully understand the kind of Messiah he had come to be—not a military commander but a suffering servant. They needed to come to a full understanding of Jesus and their mission as disciples before they could proclaim it to others in a way that would not cause a rebellion. They would have a difficult time understanding what Jesus came to do until his earthly mission was complete. Matthew 16:19-20.
God’s church, and through it, the world. In the end, though, we have to choose whether we will trust in God’s saving activity among us enough to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, to throw our lot in with the others who make up God’s Church, and to give ourselves and our abilities to serve God’s saving purpose in the world. It’s a challenge we cannot avoid this week.
May we encounter salvation as we worship this week. And, if we as Church take our calling seriously, we will become known as the bringers of salvation, and lives and communities will be transformed.