Who Do You Say That I Am?

2020-08-23 – Year A – Proper 16 – The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas

Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Matthew 16:13-20

  • In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird there is a character named Boo Radley who lives next door to the main character of the book, the six-year-old Scout Finch.
    • Boo is a recluse who never leaves his house and none of the children in the town have ever seen him. Over time children began to tell tales about this man and his appearance. They describe him as over 6ft tall, with yellow teeth and scars across his face. They also make up violent and scary stories about his past.
    • None of these stories are actually true, nor do they describe the man’s true character.
  • This is not unlike the scene at the beginning of our Gospel lesson today. Jesus has taken his disciples to another gentile town to have an important chat.

Rumors About Jesus

  • v. 13 “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
    • In other words, “what are people saying about me?”
    • Son of Man
      • Jesus probably adopted this title from the Book of Daniel (7:13).
      • It was his favorite title for himself. It allowed his identity to be a little ambiguous until he could fully accomplish his mission through his death and resurrection. 
      • “It is, then, a wide-ranging term whose content is fixed not by any predetermined meaning as a title (for it had none), but by the breadth of Jesus’ own understanding of his unique mission.”
    • John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets – These were all rumors that were going around regarding Jesus’ identity stemming from various prophesies from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha.
    • Jesus was quite a notable guy!
  • If we asked the same question around the world today, we would get some very different answers. Who do people say that Jesus is in our culture today?
    • A myth – Secularism
    • A holy man or “a” god – Hindu
    • An enlightened man – Buddhism
    • A prophet – Islam
    • A great moral teacher
  • Who do you say that I am? (v. 15) Jesus addresses this to all of them (plural)
  • (v. 16) Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the Christ (Messiah)

Who do you say that I am?

  • This is one of the most important questions in life, and you need to answer it.
  • Matthew 16:17 – “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you…”
    • Peter’s answer is not something he figured out on his own through reasoning.
  • If your answer is that Jesus is the Christ, there is one more thing you need to do…
    • Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

The Rock and the Church

  • What is the “Rock” to which Jesus refers
    • The confession that Jesus is the Christ?
      • This idea was promoted at the time of the Protestant reformation to avoid the Roman Catholic interpretation of this verse that established the Papacy.
    • The passage clearly refers to Peter himself.
      • Jesus had actually named Peter much earlier, in the Gospel of Matthew he is always called “Simon Peter.” Jesus now reveals why he gave this name.
      • This can be confusing because Jesus is also referred to as a rock or as a cornerstone.
        • Ephesians 2:20 – Foundation of Apostles and Prophets with Jesus as the Cornerstone.
      • Peter was the kind of enthusiastic leader who would proclaim the name of Jesus boldly.
      • Peter clearly became the first leader of the church in the early pages of the Book of Acts. He preached the message of Jesus with clarity from day one, and 3,000 came to believe and were Baptized on the day of Pentecost.
  • Binding and Loosing
    • Jesus gives Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, much like a steward would be given the keys to everything in a wealthy person’s house to manage it.
    • Binding and loosing were rabbinical terms for declaring what was permissible and what was not. In this context, it probably refers to Church order / discipline.
      • Peter was to lead the Church in doing exactly what Jesus said at the end of this Gospel. “Make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18-20)
    • We are the Church! Let’s follow in the footsteps of our big brother Peter, confessing Jesus as the Christ and as our Lord and Savior and spreading the message of his Good News to the ends of the earth!

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