Matthew 16:13-23 

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is? They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” NIV

Talk about a pretty good day. 

Think about it for a minute. It is always risky business to give yourself wholly over to follow someone else. It takes courage and conviction to walk away from your family business, from the home you’ve built, and from the life you’ve always known. It’s risky to lay down your nets and to follow the call of an itinerant preacher … even if it’s someone as unique, mesmerizing, powerful, and unsettling as Jesus must have been. Peter’s early encounters with Jesus must have brought him to the place where it made sense to follow Jesus into the unknown and to trust that Jesus could deliver on the promise of a life worth living. 

And so this must have been a pretty good day for Peter. Not only did he get the satisfaction of pleasing the Teacher by getting recognition for an insightful answer, but he also got validation that he had made a great life choice. He had gambled on Jesus and won and in the process. He had gotten a new name. From this point forward his story would be forever different. No longer Simon, but Peter. No longer the next generation in a family of fishermen, but the rock upon which the Church of Jesus was built. Not just another somebody taking part in the long line of religious movements, sects, or cults, but a key player in the Church through which salvation would unfold for the whole world. No longer just one of the 12, but now the anointed leader of the group. I can’t imagine that he had any idea that, from that day until this day, Popes would point at this moment to legitimize their succession as leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. It was surely a good day.

Not only had he gotten praise and a promise from the Master, but it was also confirmed to him that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had indeed spoken to him and revealed this information. I’m sure that Peter was like the rest of us, a mix of faith and doubt, with courage to go forward but still with questions. But here Jesus reassures him that he has indeed heard from the Father. Of course we can’t know for sure, but this certainly seems like a watershed moment for Peter. It wouldn’t be his last. 

What I so love about this passage are the next three verses. Talk about perspective.

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Talk about mood swings. From high heights to low depths all in the span of three verses. 

The reason I so love this passage is that it encapsulates the human condition in 10 verses. Peter was both the rock upon which the Church was to be built AND too much focused on merely human concerns. One didn’t cancel the other out. God didn’t require Peter to be perfect to name him the rock. DID YOU HEAR THAT? His frailties, failures, wrong thinking, lack of faith, big mouth, fear, self-interest, and lapses in character were not enough to disqualify him. His being named the head of the Church did not render him infallible, and it did not heal all of his frailties. He was the rock and still fallible Peter all at the same time. 

And so this gives me great hope. I can be called and anointed AND frail and fallible all at the same time. I can do the ministry God called me to do without the need to be perfect. And so can you. As it turns out, His grace is sufficient for even broken people like Peter, me, and you. The One who called you also qualifies you in spite of all the rough edges and parts that aren’t where you would like them to be. 

How Jesus dealt with Peter gives me such hope. And it should give you hope as well.

Yours in the journey,
Pastor Tim