Click here, Matthew 16:13-20, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version of this note.
Sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Hermanson, "To be added."
Interestingly, this pivotal passage occurs outside of the "home turf" of Jesus and his followers, in the district of Caesarea Philippi north of Galilee.
Jesus has been traveling about doing signs, teaching and healing. This has resulted in crowds being drawn to him. It is now time to do some assessing.
Notice Jesus begins with the more general and moves to the specific: first with the crowds, then with his followers. What's the gossip about me? What are the crowds saying? What honour / status / reputation are they attributing to me? The disciples name several prophets and holy men of Israel - they are saying you are - or are like - a prophet or holy man.
But what about you my closest associates?
This is a challenging question. It is direct and it puts Jesus and his followers on the spot - a potentially embarrassing spot if their answer is: "We don't think that much of you actually." Everything hangs on what their answer is.
Simon speaks for the group: "You are the Christ / the Anointed One / the Messiah (Aside: these three terms are all translations of the same Greek word.), the Son of God."
This affirmation by Simon is not just a formal statement of intellectual belief. It is a statement of an intimate relationship between Jesus and God, and between Jesus and his followers.
This statement reveals what up till then had been an unstated, organic process: the developing awareness of Jesus' followers and their bonding with him in his mission / ministry / identity.