Jan. 17, 2023 – Matthew 16

Who do you say that I am? Jesus asks this question of his disciples, but he asks it of us too. Truly, this question is the most important question we will ever be asked. Pay close attention to Simon’s answer. It is a confession of faith. This confession is a submission to things that Simon doesn’t understand but receives Jesus in trust because he knows his own understanding can only take him so far. This confession earns Simon the nickname Peter, which is what we usually call him. Jesus, and the confession that he is the Messiah, becomes Simon Peter’s identity.

This is a stark contrast from some other characters in Matthew 16—the Pharisees and the Sadducees. You may remember, the Pharisees were confronting Jesus in yesterday’s reading too, but now it looks like they brought some friends. Who are these Sadducees, anyway? Well, they aren’t friends of the Pharisees at all. They were political and religious rivals with very different philosophies and opinions, so it is telling that these groups come together in this mistrust of Jesus. Like the political extremes in our culture, they didn’t agree on anything. That is until they agreed that Jesus and his words are a threat.

Like a fire in dry grass, this conflict is only going to grow. Jesus shatters their expectations of the Messiah, and he did this for the disciples too. Because of this, the high point in Peter’s day doesn’t last long. None of them can really comprehend that Jesus came to die, and this breaks Peter’s heart. We can’t blame Peter for this, but Jesus' words to Peter teach us that what we do with our broken hearts really matters. Peter feels threatened by Jesus’ words, but Jesus’ response to him tells us that the true threat is in Peter’s words. When I am confronted with the Messiah who is beyond my understanding, how will I respond?

Son of Man, you are nothing we expect, but everything we need. Thank you for your saving work and for giving us a church that can withstand the powers of hell. You give us the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t understand why or how, but I trust you, God. I trust your love and power in my lack of understanding. Please make me faithful in my response. Amen

  1. What does Jesus mean when Jesus says, “Upon this rock I will build my church” and how does this apply to us?
  2. Jesus tells us, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.” What does this mean in our context? What is Christ calling you to give up so you can follow?
  3. Jesus challenges all of us, and one of the ways is by prying our unhealthy expectations of him out of our hands. Like the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and even the disciples, sometimes we find expectations of Jesus unfulfilled; in what ways has God disappointed you? How will you respond to that disappointment?
  4. This chapter ends with a cliffhanger. Jesus says, “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.” Who and what is Jesus talking about?