am indebted to the late Fr. Charles Fields for the point: there is no other
question. “Who do you say that I am?” On the answer to that your life hinges –
now and eternally. Heaven and hell, truth and falsehood, life and death,
judgment and reward, all hinge on this one question. It merits, then, our
attention for at least one lesson.
do you say that I am?
when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His
disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man
is?" And they said, "Some say
John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the
prophets." He *said to them, "But who do you
say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the
Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed
are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My
Father who is in heaven. "I also say to you
that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of
Hades will not overpower it. "I will give
you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall
have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been
loosed in heaven."
(Mat 16:13-19 NASB)
may first be noted that Jesus asked this question of His disciples in an area
where the Jews did not reside. Safe from the pressure of religious leaders,
away from the crowd, the disciples could answer freely. Note also this: He
did not ask them who the religious leaders thought He was. Fact, not
expertise, determines this answer.
point is at once simple and profound. It is, has always been, and always be
the defining truth of the church universal, militant and triumphant: Jesus of
Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God. In his reply Christ calls Peter
“Simon Barjona,” Simon the son of Jonas. It is as if He is reassuring him that
as certainly as he is the son of Jonas, so Jesus is the Son of God.
may note also that Jesus asks who the people say “the Son of Man” is. It
connects the facts: the One who is fully divine is also fully human. Anything
less is heresy, leading astray. It has often been tried.
gifts of Christ
I ask you to notice something? God the Father has given Peter the revelation
of the Christ; Christ Himself then gives the gifts mentioned here. He is not
conveying them; He gives, for He is equal with God the Father. And what gifts!
keys of the kingdom of heaven – which in Matthew means the church
(remember all those parables?). We often speak of “the key to the
problem.” The key to entering the kingdom of God is in this confession.
Those who live their proclamation of the Christ have entered this kingdom.
and loosing – which particularly relates to forgiveness. How do I know I
am forgiven? Because I forgive. Because I forgive, they are forgiven –
by me, and God. I cannot forgive on your behalf, but I can forgive for
myself. When I do, God Almighty wipes away that sin from them – and mine
revelation of God that Jesus is the Christ is indeed the chief of our
blessings. It is revealed; if He chose to hide it, we could never know it.
the greatness of this revelation: to mortal man, a fisherman from Galilee, the sticks of the Jewish nation, was given the message that the prophets longed to
hear. Salvation is come!
consider the impact of that revelation: before the Crucifixion Peter is a man
of little courage, intimidated by a servant girl into denying his Lord. After
the Resurrection, the fish becomes a lion.
A section not strictly necessary
It should not be required for those in the classroom to cover the
arguments of the Roman Catholic church and dismiss them for their self-serving
nature. But for those who may not have encountered this before, the matter is
reviewed. Briefly put, the Roman Catholic church claims, based on this passage
of Scripture, that theirs is the only church, and the Pope the infallible ruler
of that church. Setting aside the dubious logic of such a claim to begin with,
and the history of deception which accompanied it, we may observe the
First, this view is relatively new. It is a distortion of
the undoubted truth that the church universal has such authority.
Second, the problem has been complicated by the typical Protestant
response that the words “Peter” and “rock” have, in the original, two very
different meanings. Peter is Petros in the Greek; rock is petra. These are claimed to be “little rock” and “shelf rock” (perhaps after the
ruins at Petra) respectively. In fact, these are the same words; petra is the feminine form; Petros is the masculine. This has clouded the
Protestant response, and rendered it ineffective.
Perhaps we may bring to bear the witnesses of the pre-Protestant
Roman Catholic church. These are quotations from the Catena Aurea, the
“golden chain” commentary on Matthew written by the greatest philosopher of the
church, Thomas Aquinas. He quotes its greatest preacher (Chrysostom) and its
great theologian, Augustine:
That is, On this faith and
confession I will build my Church. Herein shewing that many should believe what
Peter had confessed, and raising his understanding, and making him His
I have said in a certain place of
the Apostle Peter, that it was on him, as on a rock, that the Church was built.
but I know that since that I have often explained these words of the Lord,
“Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church,” as meaning upon Him
whom Peter had confessed in the words, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living
God;: and so that Peter, taking his name from this rock, would represent the
Church, which is built upon this rock. For it is not said to him, Thou art the
rock, but, “Thou art Peter.” But the rock was Christ, [1 Cor 10:4]
whom because Simon thus confessed, as the whole Church confesses Him, he was
named Peter. Let the reader choose whether of these two opinions seems to him
the more probable. (Augustine)
Just who carries apostolic authority? If it is the lineal
descendants (by hierarchy, not the flesh) of Peter, it would seem that the
Orthodox church has an equally good claim on the title.
But the Orthodox hold to the same answer we do: the authority of
the Apostles is possessed by those who follow the teaching of the Apostles.
Not everyone who says , “Lord, Lord” will be saved. Chrysostom, who lived in a
time of one church unchallenged by division, said simply that there was one
church, with all authority – and no conflict.
Should you require some Scriptural support, may we point out two
points? The first is the one referenced by Augustine:
I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the
cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the
cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the
same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which
followed them; and the rock was Christ.
(1Co 10:1-4 NASB)
And if the question of binding and loosing seems to be in doubt,
then consider that Christ also explicitly gave such authority to the
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if
he listens to you, you have won your brother. "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two
more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE
CONFIRMED. "If he refuses to listen to
them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church,
let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall
have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been
loosed in heaven. "Again I say to you, that
if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done
for them by My Father who is in heaven. "For
where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their
(Mat 18:15-20 NASB)
If the history of the matter interested you, look into the
Suffering of Christ
He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be
killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to
rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it,
Lord! This shall never happen to You." But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me;
for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
(Mat 16:20-23 NASB)
question immediately comes up, why? Why not proclaim this truth of God? It is
speculation, of course, but perhaps it is because revealing this before its
time would weaken, not strengthen, the faith of those who heard it from Jesus.
It is interesting to note that Jesus does not “teach” this to His disciples –
He “shows” it. The more literal translations make it clear that He “must”
suffer – in the sense of “being necessary.” He can only give them the reason
for the necessity; they are not yet capable of seeing what God will do, and
why. Of which fact Peter gives example.
aside, man’s view
argument is quite simple, really:
the Son of God, has the power to avoid this fate. He is Lord; how can it
be necessary for Him to suffer?
it is unjust; it is unfair; Jesus has done nothing to deserve death. Why
then would He accept the Crucifixion?
giving policy advice to God,
finds that the good is the enemy of the best.
foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of God. Like so much else that
God does, we see the truth and treasure of it after it happens. As Paul
is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not
God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the
world through its wisdom did not come to
know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached
to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for
wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to
Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God
is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1Co 1:20-25 NASB)
up the Cross
Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to
come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it;
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole
world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory
of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS
DEEDS. "Truly I say to you, there are some
of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son
of Man coming in His kingdom."
(Mat 16:24-28 NASB)
1, 2, 3
sounds so simple, and it is. Three steps to begin to follow Christ:
- Deny yourself. “Begin to be what you are not; cease to be who you
are.” (Gregory the Great circa AD 540-604)
- Take up your cross. Take it; it is a choice, not a
burden imposed. Take up yours; it belongs to you, you need not borrow
another’s. You are best suited to bear it; it is best suited to bring you
close to your Master. Continue with it, even if it leads through
suffering to death.
- Follow Him.
Deny yourself first; suffer as you must – but in all things in all ways
follow your Lord and Savior. His eye is on the sparrow; you keep your
eyes on Him.
you buy the favor of God? With what currency? By what actions can you place
the Almighty in your debt?
you think you have a contract with God? A contract is between equals; a
covenant is given by God to His people. He has paid for it at the Cross and
proclaimed it by the Resurrection; you can praise Him and accept it, or deny
Him. With one comes the prize, the other punishment – and there is no
compromise position. Your call.
is this so important? In this world the kingdom is composed of those who
worship Christ; ultimately it will be composed of those transfigured at the
resurrection of the dead. What you must understand is that these two kingdoms
are one in the same: the kingdom of God.
lesson we shall see the Transfiguration. Ultimately, to take up the cross is
to follow your Lord; we are not above the Master. But see where this
suffering leads! The ancients said Per crucem ad lucem – from the Cross
into the Light! Lead on, O King Eternal – even through the valley of the
shadow of death. Home is where the Light is always on.