Red Letter Year: 4/29

Matthew 16:13-28

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

20 Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. 28 And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”


Just a few quick thoughts on this.

  1. The question Jesus asks in v.15 is one each of us answers for ourselves. In the end, it doesn’t matter so much what others have to say about Jesus, who do you say that he is? But don’t read this as some challenge to get your creed in order. That is not at all what I mean. All that you say and all that you do says everything you need to say about Jesus. As we read last week (and I preached on yesterday), it’s entirely possible to honor him with our lips even while our hearts and actions are only engaged in vain self-worship. 
  2. Jesus commends Peter in v.17 because the Father has revealed this to Peter, he has not learned it from any human being. This is very similar to the claim Paul makes in 1 Thessalonians for himself and the church in Thessaloniki – they are theodidaktoi – people taught by God. Peter, Paul, and the Thessalonians are not special cases in this. Each of us either receives this as revelation from God or else we don’t have it at all. There is no such thing as second-hand faith. This means the primary task of anyone who would minister to someone else is to enable them to hear from God directly. There is only one mediator between God and humans. Jesus already has that job, there won’t be an opening for that position anytime ever. If how we do church and ministry gets in the way – gets between people and God – then we’ve failed to do the one thing we must do. Bringing people face to face with Jesus is our task. Helping them hear and receive what the Holy Spirit has for them is our primary task – all our other tasks should revolve around and facilitate this. As van Gogh said: “I think that everything that is really good and beautiful, the inner, moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works, comes from God, and everything that is bad and evil in the works of men and in men is not from God, and God does not approve of it.” We must help each other focus on the inner revelations God gives to each of us.
  3. Be ready for this being taught by God thing. It usually involves sacrificing yourself in a way that makes crucifixion an apt analogy. Jesus is not talking about run-of-the-mill hardships here. We all have those. Carrying crosses are specifically self-sacrificial actions that are undertaken intentionally for the benefit of others. Jesus didn’t die on the cross on accident, or against his will, or for his own benefit. It was the Father’s purpose, Jesus chose to do it, and it was for the benefit of sinful humans. Those who are taught by God will find themselves being prepared for and launched into activities that are also cross-shaped. Those who sacrifice others for personal gain, well, that’s pretty much the opposite of how Jesus’ followers live. In the same quote van Gogh defines cross bearing and explains how it leads to life: “But I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things. Love this friend, this person, this thing, whatever you like, and you will be on the right road to understanding Him better, that is what I keep telling myself. But you must love with a sublime, genuine, profound sympathy, with devotion, with intelligence, and you must try all the time to understand Him more, better and yet more. That will lead to God, that will lead to an unshakeable faith.”

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.