Lectionary Year A
August 22, 1999
Matthew 16:13-20

Hermeneutical Bridge


(JFC) A. SALIENT FEATURES

At this stage of the exegesis, we must note well Jesus' contrasting the revelatory source of the substance of Simon's confession. It is not via flesh and blood, an allusion to Jewish Rabbis' revelations as well as instructions of the Law(s), rather it is with Jesus' Father who is in heaven revealing to Simon that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. This revelation is the major point of this passage. The next most important points, regarding Jesus' building the church, the keys to the kingdom of heaven and hell's gates' being unable to prevail against the church, do deserve some recognition. They do relate to the center of gravity, the revelation and the Revealer. Next, Jesus' adding to Simon's name warrants notice, as does the blessedness Jesus pronounces of Simon, due to this revelation. Other features seem less important. They include the dialogue with the disciples, initiated by Jesus Himself, the binding and loosening images and the admonition to keep the secret.

(JFC) B. SMOOTH TRANSLATION

13 Jesus came into the region known as Caeserea Philippi. There, He inquired of His disciples, "What's the word about town, regarding who the Son of Man is?" 14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist. Others think, Elijah or even Jeremiah or another of the prophets." 15 Then, Jesus said, "But, you, who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "Why, You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God." 17 Responded Jesus saying to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjonah, for humans have not revealed this insight to you, rather, our God who is in heaven has. 18 Now, I tell you this, that you are Peter and on this solid revelation I shall build My Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and whatever you maintain on earth will be maintained (for you) in Heaven and whatever you let go of on earth will be left out of Heaven." 20 Then He instructed the disciples that they were to say to no one that He is the Messiah.

(JFC) C. HERMENEUTICAL BRIDGE

This marvelous pericope gives some answers to the often asked question, "Who is, and was, too, of course, Jesus Christ?" If people today aren't asking it out loud, it might be because they are afraid of the answer. Then, too, many people are reluctant to ask many questions at all, dreading they might appear less than totally informed, or at least, ignorant of something worth knowing. Possibly they don't want to be found out that they have such an unanswered question in their faith bank. Unanswered questions, like questions people have to ask, are taboo in the Information Age in which we live.

Another such question people ask has to do with getting into Heaven. This passage sheds some light on that dilemma, too. Jesus tells Simon and therefore us, as well, that revelations from God bring blessings. Such revelations do contain the identity of Jesus Christ. If and when we wonder about Jesus' identity, we need only listen to and look for revelations from God who is in Heaven. They are legion in Scripture. Sounds like good news to me. Still, I have to wonder whether Jesus had an ulterior motive in asking the question(s). Or, was He merely participating in Plato's admonition, "Know thyself", and seeking further observations from His colleagues? Surely, He didn't need such.

We can ask such questions of colleagues in the Church. We can certainly share such searchings for truth. Robert O. Williamson recently wrote a book, Hometown Diners. Michael Feldman interviewed him on IPR's "What d'ya Know?" radio show. There, he stated that "information gets exchanged" in such local eateries. In the Church we are free and encouraged to exchange faith data and revelations from on high by God, especially as they are recorded in Scripture.



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