Matthew 16:13-20; Jesus is the Rock (8-24-14)
By the Rev. Bob Gochenour
*Albert Einstein once said: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure of the former.”
*Ben Franklin once told about a boy who was so smart he could name a horse in 9 languages, but so ignorant he bought a cow to ride on.
*Will Rogers once said, “Education never helped morals. The smarter the guy, the bigger the rascal.”
*My grandfather used to say that people think more of their children’s feet than of their brains, since they pick their shoes according to the size of their feet but send them all to the same school.
Do we need modern examples?
*I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the clerk noticed that I had never signed the back side of my credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. When I asked why, she answered that it was necessary to compare the signature on the credit card with the signature I had just signed on the receipt.
So…I signed the credit card in front of her.
She carefully compared the signature to the one I signed on the receipt.
As luck would have it, they matched!
*A man called the local county administrator to request the removal of the “Deer Crossing” sign on his road.
The reason: too many deer were being hit by cars and he no longer wanted them to cross there.
*My daughter went to a local fast food chain and ordered a sandwich. She asked the person behind the counter for “minimal lettuce.” He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.
*The police in Radnor, PA, interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine. The message “You are lying” was written on a piece of paper and place flat on the glass of the copier.
The police would press the copy button every time they thought the suspect was telling a lie. The “lie detector” would print the message: “You are lying.”
Believing the police’s “lie detector” was working, the suspect confessed.
This is why we spend so much time and money on schools:
We want to educate our children/ grandchildren.
We want them to avoid ignorance and become smart.
Did you know one who was smarter than you in school?
*I think we all knew someone like Oscar Moberg.
In the 4th grade, Oscar was the class “know-it-all.”
Oscar always did extra math problems, read more than assigned, and talked like an encyclopedia.
He obviously enjoyed school and learning in general.
He did not understand that his love for learning made him hated by his peers.
It didn’t help that he had a funny haircut and an odd name.
Worst of all: he knew he was the smartest kid in the class.
One day we thought we caught him in a mistake.
Oscar was writing his report on the blackboard about some artist.
He made some mention of the man’s “works.”
He was using this word as a noun, describing the numerous paintings the artist had produced.
The class only knew the word “works” as a verb, describing the actual act of painting a picture.
The class laughed with glee, then vigorously heckled him, convinced that Oscar had finally blown it.
We were convinced that we were right and Oscar was WRONG!
Imagine how our glee turned into disappointment when the teacher corrected us, proclaimed Oscar as correct and praised him for his creativity.
She then scolded us for our ignorance!
Needless to say, this incident did little to endear Oscar to the rest of the fourth grade.
Now consider how the other disciples might have felt towards the “know-it-all” Simon Peter.
Jesus asked the question: “WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM.”
Simon Peter answered: “YOU ARE THE MESSIAH, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.”
By having the correct answer about Jesus’ Messiahship before anyone else, this unlikely character earned Jesus’ undivided attention.
Jesus said: “YOU ARE PETERAND ON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, AND THE GATES OF HADES WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT…”
Do you think James kicked the dust with his sandal, muttering,
“I was going to say that!”?
Did Thomas angrily insist: “I had my hand up first!”?
At the very least, the thought had to cross the minds of these 11 disciples that Jesus’ reward to Peter for the right answer just wasn’t fair.
Even if these disciples didn’t feel any resentment about this blessing, the Church has struggled with it for 2000 years.
WHAT DOES THE BLESSING OF PETER MEAN?
Catholic scholars have argued that this passage “ordains” Peter as the 1st Bishop of the Church. From this blessing, they argue that he became the first Bishop of Rome and the 1st Pope.
Protestant scholars have objected to the Catholic interpretation.
Most Protestants argue that the blessing of Jesus was NOT specific to Simon Peter, but intended for all 12 disciples.
They insist that Peter was just the representative voice for all the disciples—and that he was just the most impulsive to answer 1st.
They reason, if Peter was speaking for all of the disciples, then Jesus’ blessing was meant for the 12 Disciples—and that they collectively would serve as the foundation for the church.
So, Catholic and Protestant scholars are like school children—trying to be the smartest kid in the class.
Each side is trying to prove that they are right and the other side is wrong!
*WHAT DOES THIS BLESSING OF PETER REALLY MEAN?
If we get passed the school-boy conflicts, we might find another meaning—I believe there is something deeper here than the blessing of Peter.
Let’s look at the words again: “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!”
Notice that Jesus answers Peter the same way that Peter described Jesus.
Peter said: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus said: You are Simon, the son of Jonah.”
Jesus describes Simon’s lineage—you are the natural born son of your father Jonah. You have a rich heritage—father and mother, grandparents, great grandparents. A family who nurtured you and trained you as a fisherman, a faithful Jew, a member of the Covenant of Israel.
Peter described Jesus’ lineage—you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. His natural lineage from Joseph and Mary did not matter. Jesus was sent to complete a Holy Mission—to become savior of the world.
Jesus does not send Peter to the head of the class for being so smart.
Instead, he insists that his answer is a gift of divine knowledge.
“For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
Peter’s answer was not the result of human wisdom or ability.
Peter’s answer was a GIFT—DIVINE INSIGHT.
Peter doesn’t get any credit for his answer—all the credit goes to God.
In light of this, the blessing of Peter takes on a new meaning.
Jesus uses a Hebrew play on words to make his point.
Jesus said: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”
Peter is the Greek word “petros” which mean small stone.
Rock is the Greek word “petra” which means large stone.
What Jesus is actually saying is that Peter is a small stone—a small part of the larger church which is a big rock.
It is the big rock on which Jesus builds his church.
It is the big rock that will withstand the gates of Hades.
Catholic scholars claim that Peter is the foundation stone of the Church.
Protestant scholars claim the 12 Disciples are the foundation stones of the church.
That is not what Jesus actually say: he says that Peter is a small stone and that he will build the church on the Petra/big rock.
What is the big rock? It is not Peter. It is not the 12 disciples.
The Big Rock= Jesus.
He is the stone which the builders rejected, but God made him the cornerstone of the church—the foundation of faith.
More specifically, the ROCK = Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
This is GOOD NEWS!
The Church is not built on the frailties of Peter’s personality.
It is not limited by his impetuous nature.
It is not limited by his failures, sins, or prejudices.
It is not a human institution, produced by flesh and blood.
It is not controlled by arguing scholars attempting to be the smartest kids in the class.
The Church of Jesus Christ is built on this confession of faith:
“Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
This is the ROCK that will not be overthrown by the gates of Hades.
Side note: Jesus was with the Disciples at Caesarea Philippi. This was a Roman city at the base of Mt. Hermon. It was famous for the shrine to the Greek god Pan. The shrine was a huge cave that featured a gushing torrent of water from within the mountain. The cave was so deep it was known in those days as the Gates of Hades—the entrance to the underworld and the powers of death.
Jesus makes his claim in front of the Gates of Hades: the Church of Jesus Christ will defeat Hades and death!
Jesus has begun a new age: Messianic age has power over evil.
This is the STRONG FOUNDATION that we stand upon:
Not Peter, not the 12 disciples, not our own smarts.
Jesus is the Rock of the Church—God’s divine community of faithful believers. We are not in charge—we are HIS disciples.
When we confess Jesus as our Messiah:
We become blessed like Peter.
We become “petros:” little stones from the big rock of Jesus.
Jesus takes us a places us in the church to help build up the walls.
Jesus takes us a makes us a partner in the BIG ROCK.
We anchor our lives on the ROCK of our salvation—Jesus.
We receive the blessings of God:
The gift of divine revelation
Divine heritage—sons and daughters of the living God
Salvation—membership in Jesus’ work as Messiah
Protection—fortress of God surrounds us and shields us form the Gates of Hades.
True Smarts—we know that Jesus is our ROCK.