Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Declared by Peter: International Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending February 14, 2010

Purpose: To affirm that a true confession of faith is the foundation of our Christian life

Scripture Text: Matthew 16:13-27 (NRSV)

Matthew 16:13-27
(13) Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ (14)And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ (15)He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ (16)Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ (17)And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. (18)And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (19)I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ (20)Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

(21) From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (22)And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ (23)But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

(24) Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (25)For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (26)For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

(27) ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This passage comes near the end of the Galilean ministry of Jesus, and He is preparing His disciples for the trip to Jerusalem. Caesarea Philippi was a city where Herod the Great had built a marble temple for the worship of Caesar Augustus, and was a center for emperor worship. Herod Philip renovated the city and changed its name from Paneas to Caesarea; the Philippi was added to distinguish this city from other cities called Caesarea throughout the Roman Empire and to honor the re-builder of the city Herod Philip. It was located about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee in a valley at the base of Mt. Hermon, the present name for this community is Banius, and it consist of about 50 houses and lots of interesting ruins. A spring located there was one of the sources for the Jordan River.

There were varying thoughts on who Jesus was, and what His role was as far as Jews and gentiles were concerned. King Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected; others thought he was Jeremiah, or Elijah, a prophet, teacher, healer, an insurrectionist, very few actually thought Him to be the Messiah or the Christ.

When Jesus asks the question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The original response was pretty predictable, but more importantly Jesus wanted to know who the disciples thought Jesus was. Simon Peter acting as a spokesman for the group says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” The next few verses are some of the most important and misinterpreted in the New Testament. When Peter calls Jesus the “Son of the living God,” Peter separates God from all of the other Gods, because the other Gods are not living. Jesus responds by blessing Peter for his insight and correctly answering the question. Jesus states that just as Peter is the son of Jonah, He is the Son of God, or the Christ, and Jesus can say this because His Father in heaven has revealed that information to Peter.

It is somewhat astonishing that in a span of four verses Peter goes from receiving the praise of Jesus to receiving His scorn. Jesus no sooner hands Peter the keys to the kingdom than he has to chasten him for being “a stumbling block.” In an instant the Church was born and with its birth came the authority it would need to govern itself. In this small passage the concept of the church is born, and this body of believers are marked by the confession of Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” this “church” would forever be marked off from the other people of the earth, the Greek term ekklesia signifying called out ones. All of this power and authority rest in Peter's confession, not in Peter himself.

Imagine the tension when so soon after proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus starts preparing them for His death on the cross. Of course Peter now says “God forbid it, Lord” How can the Christ build His church by dying, so Peter goes from hero to goat in a very short span, now Jesus is calling him Satan, and accuses him of being short sighted and only interested in the now, and not understanding the divine. I have often wondered which Peter became the first Pope, the Peter of verse 17 or the Peter of verse 23. One also has to ponder why God revealed the truth to Peter and then Satan used him as stumbling block to Jesus. Peter had gained this influential power, then he lets Satan use that influence he had gained to become a stumbling block. We must always be careful how we allow our influence to be used, and we should never lose sight of our mission on earth. Satan would love to use our influence for his fight.

Finally, Jesus carried the fact of His death and resurrection to its further point by providing a pattern for his disciples. The church would be built upon sacrifice, first by himself, and secondly, on the part of his consecrated followers. They as He must lay down their lives (psyche) that they may take them up again.

That Jesus was “the Son of the living God,” is the basis of our setting ourselves apart from the rest of the people on earth. With it comes power, but also responsibility, and we must have willingness to sacrifice.

Do you have influential powers? Are you using that to strengthen the church? Or are you guilty of letting Satan use your influence as a stumbling block?

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