Sunday, August 21, 2011

Take a leap of faith!

Gospel Mt 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Matthew presents a central moment in the life of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is. At first they give the answers they've heard muttered in the streets. There were many opinions about Jesus' identity. Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist returned to life (Matt. 14:2). The return of Elijah was expected to accompany the coming of God's kingdom. Others recognised the similarities between Jesus and the suffering prophet Jeremiah. Then Jesus asks not for popular speculations but for the disciples' own assessment. He pushes them to their own answer. He has waited a long time. He has allowed them to witness his works and given them access to his parables and stories. Now they must decide.

It is Peter who responds. He calls Jesus 'the Christ, the Son of the living God' (v. 16). He identifies him as the Messiah - the Hebrew word messiah, meaning 'anointed one', is equivalent to the Greek christos. Jesus is not just another prophet. He is the one for whom God's people have been waiting and longing. Jesus recognises that Peter's confession is a moment of genuine revelation, a revelation that can have come only from God.

Peter's judgement about Jesus is a decision of faith. We are not dealing simply with friendship or admiration. It is one thing to see Jesus as a good and holy person. It is quite another to see this good and holy person as a revelation of God. In order to recognise Jesus as the Son of the living God, Peter must have had some sense of who the living God is. It's because Jesus supremely corresponds to the image of God's anointed presented in Hebrew Scripture that Peter is able to make the leap of faith.

This leap of faith is something that can be made only with God's help. Humanity of itself can't know God. God is only known when he lets himself be known. And so Peter's recognition of Jesus as God's Son can be made only through God's revelation of himself. This is something that we can come to appreciate in our lives of faith too. We can spend hours in prayer and study of God's Word, but it is only through God's gracious revelation of himself to us that we can truly know him.

'Father, open my mind to recognize Jesus as the Lord of all, and to allow him to reign in my heart!

Peace and love,

Reverend Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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