MONDAY, APRIL 17
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 16
There is much to talk about in this chapter. There is much I want to talk about in this chapter. But I have decided to use my space today to unpack part of what we read in verses 13-20. This really is a significant story that has incredible ramifications for the reality of the Christian faith.
The section starts in a bit of an unusual way. Jesus asks His disciples who people were saying He was. That would be odd for us to ask our friends who people said we were. But the identity of Jesus is of paramount importance. Folks might mistake my identity and never be the worse for it. But mistaking the identity of Jesus has eternal ramifications.
As you might imagine, the crowd had some answers to the identity of Jesus. There were answers ranging from John the Baptizer (who had just been executed) to any number of Old Testament prophets. The point is you have to be careful about listening to the crowd. The crowd is almost always certain in their answer but the crowd is not always correct. It is easy to get swept away in the error of the crowd. So be careful about what crowd you get your info from.
The next question Jesus asked was, “Who do you say I am?” Our friend, Simon, always the one with a quick response to any given situation, stepped up to answer. He made an absolutely incredible announcement: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is the basis for our faith. If Jesus is not the Christ, our faith is in vain. If Jesus is not the only begotten Son of the living God, our faith is in vain.
In verse 18, Jesus actually gave Simon a brand new name: Peter. That sounds a bit odd. We don’t normally give new names to adults. But it is a very Biblical thing to do. Throughout the Bible we find God giving people new names. Those new names were indicative of the new life, the new relationship, the new future they had because of a personal connection with the one, true God.
I also want to talk a little about what Jesus actually said and what He didn’t say in verse 18. First of all, Jesus didn’t say that He was going to build His church on Peter. Our Catholic friends are convinced that is what Jesus said. But Scripture and even our own logic dictate that that can’t be true. A church built on a man would crumble when that man died. (By the way, we see this happen. A lot.) The church instead is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ. The rock that Jesus promised to build His church on is the statement that “He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The next thing Jesus said is “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” the church. That may sound like a description. I think it is more of a mandate. Here’s what I mean. Jesus didn’t say that hell wouldn’t attack the church or that hell couldn’t invade the church. That happens a lot. What Jesus said is that when the church rises up and moves forward, nothing can stop her – not even the gates of hell. The church Jesus built is designed to be an unstoppable force. In fact, the only thing I know that can stop a church is the folks in the church refusing to be the church that Jesus built.
As this section of this chapter comes to an end, we are told that we are given incredible authority and responsibility. May we be incredible stewards of that. May we represent Jesus well.