Matthew 16: 13 – 20
Be with us, Lord Jesus. Be our companion on our way. In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope, so that, in union with one another, we may recognise you in the Scriptures and in the breaking of Bread.
We are going to read today’s gospel slowly and attentively. As a help I have divided it, giving each part a title. These titles will help you to choose which part you want to reflect on and use as your starting point for prayer.
Mt 16: 13 – 20
Jesus questions his disciples.
13When Jesus went to the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciple, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Mission of the Church and the triumph of Good.
17Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18And so I say to you. You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Keys of the Kingdom
19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
I am a different Messiah
20Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.
We will focus on:
- Our spiritual growth, and
- How we experience God at work in our lives.
This text is in fact a high point in Matthew’s Gospel. Caesarea Philippi is the furthest North that Jesus travels. It is here, for the first time that we hear about his coming Passion and death. No wonder then that he forbids his disciples to speak of him as the Messiah. Few people at that time would have been able to believe in a ‘Suffering Messiah.” “Tell no one that I am the Messiah,” could be addressed to us. Have we clarity of what this title means for us?
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
“Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” This is not the first time people have not been able to understand who Jesus is.
The first story about the calming of the storm ends with, “What sort of man is this?” (8: 27)
The people of Nazareth questioned, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary?” (13: 54 – 55)
John sent his disciples asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (11: 3)
Herod thought he was John the Baptist. (14: 2)
So many people seem to have failed to really understand Jesus. Surely we too have to stop and ponder the nature and meaning of our relationship with Jesus.
Now we have to answer for ourselves! “But who do you say that I am?”
Jesus asks each of us:
Who am I for you? What influence do I have in your life?
How has belief in me made you different from those who do not know me?
“The modern world listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. If it does listen to teachers it is because they are witnesses.”1 We are warned that we cannot give what we have not experienced. “Tell no one.” Our teaching and preaching will only be authentic if we speak out of the conviction of personal experience.
Imagine you are talking to a friend. Tell this person about your relationship with me.
God is with us
Early in Matthew’s gospel he tells us:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (1: 23)
In both the stories about a storm on the lake we hear the cry, “Lord, save us!” (8: 25 and 14: 30) We echo this prayer when we call out for God’s help in the midst of the trials and difficulties of life. We too may be confident that God is with us in a special way.
The gospel closes with this promise, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (28: 20)
Son of God
At Jesus baptism a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (3: 17)
During the Transfiguration a voice said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (17: 5)
On Calvary, the centurion and the men with him said, “Truly, this was the Son of God.” (27: 54)
Now Jesus asks us, “When you look at my life what do you see? Who do you say that I am?”
- Paul VI