Thursday Reflections – Matthew 16:13-23

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 Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 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.18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death 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 ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 

Who do you say I am?  That's the famous question, isn't it?  In the moment Peter responds with bold confidence, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  He's right.  He got the question correct, but what is striking to me is:

1) How little Peter actually understands about what that means.  Just a few verses later goes from being "the rock" to "Satan".  and

2) How willing Peter is to follow Jesus… to believe in him even though there is still much that just doesn't seem to make sense.

The easy road here is to point the finger at Peter for trying to push his own agenda, but I can't do so without first pointing the finger at myself.  How many times have my own prayers been in essence, "I know you are the Son of God and all, but wouldn't it make more sense if you just did _____________ instead of ______________?"  "Just leave it to me Jesus.  I know what I'm doing."  Is that just me?  Here's the thing; in answering Jesus' question, "Who do you say I am?" we are also, in a sense, answering the question that each one of asks when we look in the mirror.  "Who am I?"  If our true identity is discovered in Jesus (which I believe that it is), then with that comes Jesus' authority and power working in us and through us.  It's what gives us the authority to bring light to a darkened world… to claim victory over sin and death, etc.  Jesus tells his disciples to go and do what he did and he has every confidence that they will succeed because by his Spirit he goes with them and works in them and through them.  I think most of us like that part of the deal.  Where it gets more challenging is when we face the reality that Peter faced.  When we live as Jesus lived… when we follow his lead we come to know not just the glorious and powerful Jesus, but also the Jesus who humbles himself to the point of submitting to death on a cross.  It's exhilarating to find our identity in his power, but it can be a much more frightening proposition to follow in his humility.

This is why it is so striking to me that Peter continues to follow.  He comes face-to-face with the reality of what his life of following Jesus will look like, yet his story doesn't end there.  He didn't understand (and I'm not always sure I do either), but it wasn't a deal breaker for him.  He continued to follow Jesus even though ultimately it led to him being put to death.  Peter knew who Jesus was that day in Caesarea Philippi, but I think he came to really know Jesus when he was confronted with the reality of what jesus was about to do.  

Jesus, help me to know you more fully this day… wherever that leads… whatever it takes.

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