Friday, July 14, 2017

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 16:13-28


Matthew 16:13-28 would probably be one of the most preached passages from the gospels.  It is triumphant, prophetic, and a little confusing. 

The place is relevant  They are near a pagan site, the Gates of Hell where Pan was worshiped.  Why such a pagan site in Israel?  To study the Bible is to study geography, and this particular area in the north was more Gentile than in the South.  The ESV makes a difference between the first time Jesus asks the question about what people are saying about him, and the second time, targeting Peter.  “The son of man” vs. “I, the son of man?” 

 Peter responds correctly, in this case, and we learn that conversion to the Christian faith is an act of God, not a human one.

It’s what follows that drives Protestants crazy. Volumes have been written, but I don’t see that Jesus is establishing the papacy here, especially since he never brings it up again!  I would think he would be more direct about it. 

And hence the confusion.  Who is “you?”  Is it plural, singular, the immediate audience, the whole believing world? What is the rock referring to?  Is Peter being called the primary apostle now?  Peter later writes that Jesus is the rock of the church, not himself.  Daniel has prophesied about a rock not cut by hands (interesting since Jesus was a stonemason rather than a carpenter) that would bash the clay feet of the statue (Daniel 2). 

At the same time, the apostles were special.  We can’t get away from that.  The early church venerated them, but only because Jesus had given them special duties to begin the church.  We like to sit around and talk about how clueless they were, as if they were Jesus’ foils, but that is not the case.  They get it wrong and make mistakes, but they are in training here for the biggest job of history. 

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