Lectionary Year A
August 25, 2002
Matthew 16:13-20

Step II: Disposition


These rather simple sentences report a dialogue among Jesus and His disciples. It climaxes, or, at least, concludes with a conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter. The discussion builds as it focuses on Jesus' affirming that Simon identifies Him as a result of revelation(s) from God. Its dramatic center focuses on Jesus' calling Simon, Peter and pronouncing that He'll build His ekklesia thereupon.


* Upon what, specifically, will Jesus build His Church? Or, to ask it another way, why do we have no explanation of what rock like character serves as the foundation of what Jesus is going to build His church on?
* Is Jesus asking 2 questions or one in 2 different ways? He asks them who people name to be the Son of Man and then he asks them who they name Him to be?
* What have the gates of hell got to do with it? Is that image a figure of speech, an idiom expressing an extreme to make a point?
* It always puzzles me why the disciples seem to think Jeremiah is not a Prophet. Is it because the oral accounts and/or language relating this encounter simply assumes all hearers and/or readers of it know that Jeremiah is a prophet? Or, could it be that they, in those days, had other, perhaps additional designations for Jeremiah and Isaiah, etc.?
* Where did these peculiar verses (17-19) originate?
* Then, of course, we have to wonder why Jesus silenced the disciples, regarding His being the Messiah. Is it because it is premature, before His death and resurrection, to speak thereof?

The story seems to move rather logically from opening inquiry through attempts to answer it to more personal challenge for a response that indicates an extra-human recognition of Jesus' messiahship. The disciples' early remarks quickly get left behind, never again to be recalled. When Simon answers, Jesus immediately calls him blessed for the revelation(s) from God and then Jesus changes his name to Peter, the rock. Surely, the rock symbolizes sturdiness of belief in what God reveals about the messiah. Such a foundation for Jesus' church seems appropriate. Then, the sayings, regarding binding and loosing on earth and thereby in heaven, too, must refer to the keys to the kingdom and/or the kingdom itself. Do these warnings tell us how we are to build, with Christ's leading, His church? The pericope ends with the admonition to keep the secret. It later gets to be spread about after Christ's resurrection.

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