Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Rock-Solid Confession
Matthew 16:13-20
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 16–Sunday between August 21 and 27 Inclusive)
analysis by Jim Squire


13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And 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. 18And 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. 19I 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.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.


DIAGNOSIS: Traditional Answers

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Locked in the Past
Whatever prompted the first question from Jesus’ lips to his disciples, the answer of the disciples is very much on the surface. Any Pharisee could have said just as much. Its almost Sunday Schoolish. Say what the scholars say. Yet it also depicts a kind of thinking that is so old that it cannot imagine anything really new (at least, no more new than John the Baptist, but even that reference is a contemporary recycling of the old).

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Bound to traditionalism
What did not occur to the disciples in their answer to the question is any sense of the person with whom they were journeying. Jesus’ second question, therefore, comes out almost starkly, “But who do you say that I am?” None of the other disciples answer, except Peter. Maybe they’re afraid to answer. Or maybe, as their first answer betrays, they know just how delicate the question is and just how judicious their answer must be. Either way, their lack of immediate response betrays them — they are so inescapably bound to “old” traditional answers that cannot help them with this contemporary and relevant question.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Bound to pass
Maybe why they are afraid to answer is that they know just how much their answer has eternal ramifications. To give the wrong answer would hold them accountable for their wrong. But not answering, at this moment, also has divine consequences. Timing is everything. But the time is bound to pass. So also are the disciples, if they do not answer — and answer rightly.

PROGNOSIS: Promising-tradition Confession

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: The Messianic Son of the Living God
Peter’s confession goes out on a limb. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” God in their midst! That answer could scorch them for sure, whether right or wrong. If right, how could they stand before God. If wrong, God would vindicate his name. But Peter is not scorched. He is, instead, blessed. Jesus’ timing is everything. The confession at Caesarea Philippi is the beginning of new journey that must take Jesus (and the disciples) to Jerusalem — not for an ending, but for a new beginning. There the messianic quality of Jesus, the truth of Jesus’ identity, will find its liberating fruit for Peter and for all the disciples, taking their accountability as his own, and giving them the blessed fruits of his righteousness.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Blessed Confessing
The joy for the disciples and Peter is that they get to keep on confessing, not living in fear. “The gates of Hades” (the power of death) cannot prevail against us in our confessing, which is itself the revelation of faith given to us by Jesus’ Father and our Father. But in the confessing, we are living beyond the power of death, living instead with the “new” life that Jesus brings to us.

Step 6- Final Prognosis: Keys for Life
All of this frees us to be Jesus’ new people to unlock the lives of others. For in our faithful confession as this Christ’s church, we have the keys to bind and loose. We have the keys. The confessing life calls us to use them to help others, now, to newness they may never have imagined before. Our confession of the promising tradition unlocks not only our own souls from the past, but frees and liberates others to embrace the new promising Son of Man, Messiah Jesus.

Author

  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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