Matthew 16:13-20 CEB Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.
I wonder if Jesus ever had an ethic of self-care while on earth. If given a choice between helping others or himself he always appeared to choose others. Yet, at times when he was helping others he really was searching for some alone time- from the feeding of the 5,000+ to the Canaanite woman he wasn't looking to help anyone but himself, but he ended up forgoing his own needs for the needs of those around him. Even when he just wants to take a relaxing walk across a lake, his disciples stop him because they are afraid. Never does he stop these people and tell them to come back at a better time. He never gripes about what he wanted to do while healing or teaching. This is not a 9-5 Lord and Savior. Even when he thinks he might be off the clock something happens where he simply clocks back in. I have a friend who is an ordained minister and licensed therapist. If there was one thing he pushes on any leader in the church it is self-care. If a leader is not mentally and physically healthy they can do more hindrance to a group than help. I guarantee you, if he was one of Jesus’ disciples he would constantly be telling Jesus to sit and renew. So, I would guess this friend would really love today’s scripture.
In chapter 16 it appears Jesus finally gets the chance to practice self-care. There is space to pause and reflect; possibly pray. It is out of this reflection Jesus asks a very interesting question to the disciples: Who do people say that the Son of Man is? It is interesting because most people assume what he is really asking is, “Do people think I am the Son of Man?” Ah, but that is not what Jesus asked, is it? It is easy to hear the title ‘Son of Man’ and assume it always goes with Jesus. (By the way, a more fitting translation is "Human One.") Judging by the disciples answers there were many views on who or what the Human One was. This was not to gauge how the disciples felt but the overall perception of everyone else, and everyone else was thinking the Son of Man was someone great but deceased. (John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or another prophet.) If the disciples got the people’s perceptions right the idea the people had was wrong.
So Jesus first asks about outsider knowledge regarding a term, but follows it up with insider knowledge about him. In other words, his initial question is followed by asking the disciples directly, who do you say that I am? (You know, maybe this is why he always went by himself to pray. He knew he couldn’t stop asking questions if he wasn’t alone. Jesus really comes across as a type A personality sometimes. You see it when others are around and he is in a renewal and prayer mode. Those with him have to be a part of it too.)Now, Peter is always the one who is willing to participate in whatever Jesus is doing. He is that kid in the back of the classroom who joyfully raises his or her hand no matter what the question. You can almost hear him whispering, “Me, me, me. Pick me.” You wonder if he raised his hand any higher if it dislocate. If the disciples were in a classroom with Jesus as their teacher, would Peter get the title, ‘Teacher’s Pet?’ Either way, at least Peter understands what the people are failing to see- the Human One and the Messiah are one in the same, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God.
Yeah, I think Jesus had an ethic of self-care but his need to teach and heal could never be quelled when others were present. That is probably why he went alone on mountains to pray. He just couldn’t do it in the presence of others. In this case, thank goodness because from his type A behavior comes some A+ scripture.
The dialogue that follows between Peter and Jesus reminds me of last week’s scripture, the part where Jesus was talking about the power of words. To sum it up, we have to be careful with our words because words come from the heart. Words can be dangerous. They are dangerous because they speak of our personal truth. What do I mean by that? Well, using myself as an example: who I am, Melissa Renee Fain, can eventually be pieced together using my words. In my case, by using my meditations. What I say speaks of who I am. The people, those who were not in Jesus’ inner circle, did not know the truth so their words showed their ignorance. Ignorance was their truth. Simon Peter, within Jesus’ inner circle, stated what was in his heart and spoke from his truth. What Simon Peter believed in his heart to be true was in fact the real truth: Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God. Does that make sense? It’s like this: there was a time that everyone knew the earth was flat. In the heart of the majority the truth was found in the flatness of the earth. Now the real truth would eventually show that the earth was round. The difference is the perceptions and beliefs we hold “true” in our hearts verses the actuality that simply exists. There were people who believed in their hearts that John the Baptist was the Human One when the actual truth was right in front of their face. See, you can be told one thing and still make the decision not to place that knowledge in your heart as ‘truth.’ I could run down the street telling everyone that I am Joan of Arc, but just because I say it, doesn’t mean the people looking at me are going to believe what I say.
Simon Peter believed what Jesus had done and said and therefore knew the truth. His truth was the actuality. He knew Jesus was not just trying to act silly, pull off a magic trick, or pretend to be something he wasn’t. He knew Jesus was the Messiah. This understanding did not come through words or actions but through his heart. That is where God really talks to us. I reference my Joan of Arc comment. I mean, seriously, none of you would think I was really Joan of Arc just because I told you so. You would know in your heart who I really was. A heart centered on God is the litmus test to all those words out in the world. A heart centered on God is what can allow us to really speak the truth. It is what turns us from sand into rocks. It is what makes us firm foundations for future generations. Peter was not born Peter, but Simon. Peter wasn’t even a standard name for the time period. It is Greek for rock. Jesus renamed Simon, Peter. Simon became a rock because his heart was true so he was able to speak the truth.
We can be rocks too. We too can know the truth and speak it. We just have to do something that is so incredibly out there people might just think we are crazy. We need to fully rely on God. I know, insane, isn’t it? We just need to use Jesus as our road map. He lived a God filled life and people saw, from their hearts, who he really was. His time on earth began the process to change the world. Our words will either hurt or help that process, because our words will reflect what is truly in our hearts.
So what can I leave you with? How are you going to work out my meditation? How are you going to speak truthfully from your heart? Well, that part is for you to figure out. May I suggest you start by figuring out which truth you are listening to. Find the truth that seeks unification of the Body of Christ. Find the truth that speaks from the heart.