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Matthew 16:13-20

The Rev. Jon Roberts

24 August


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 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. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.


Christ giving the keys to St. Peter by an unknown artist

The mystery of God
is unlocked by the keys
to our faith when we know the Son of the living God. [1]

Most everybody will spend the majority of their time trying to figure out what they want in life; what gives meaning, or what gives pleasure. Ultimately we want to know who we are; what is our purpose and whether or not we belong to someone who is greater than us. This brings us to the mystery of God.

God is that-to-which-nothing-greater-can-exist.[2] To know ourselves, therefore, is to know God. The key to unlocking this mystery relies upon our faith. Who do you say God is? To begin, we need a key. Let’s pick up the Creed and use that. “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.[3] It fits, but we can’t seem to turn it by itself. There has to be something more. Maybe more intelligent reasoning? “Who do you say that I am?” asks Jesus in the Gospel.[4] And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah, or one of the old prophets like Jeremiah.” And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”

What if Peter answered saying, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."
Jesus would’ve looked at him and answered, "What?" Instead, Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Peter understood, but it didn’t come as easily as we think. His knowledge was based on experience rather than an intelligent and heady, theological statement as we heard above. Look into the reference that is made to him. Jesus refers to him as the son of Jonah. This is a clue. Jesus identifies with the Jonah of the Old Testament, one who struggles with the will of God. You may recall the Lord spoke to him and told him to go to Ninevah but he refused, instead going the opposite way. After being thrown overboard and swallowed by the fish, three days later he understood; the hard way.

The other lesson we hear today is about another who was cast out into the water by his mother and who would be fetched out by the family of the Pharoah in Egypt. The story of Moses is similar as he fled from God’s will into the wilderness. He would remain there until he reconciled his sinful ways with God and go back to deliver his people. Peter can relate and perhaps he even went back to the moments where he walked on the water and when he struggled with the decisions Jesus made to stay with the crowd or to heal the blind. For that brief moment, Peter “got it.”

Next week, we will learn that he refuses to believe Jesus would be the one, like Jonah, to go down and then rise up three days later. That’s the sequel to today’s lesson. Today, Peter understood that the Messiah was before him. He didn’t look like the Messiah. If I were to ask you to identify people’s occupation based on what they wear, that would be similar. If I brought out a person with a big helmet and face shield, wearing a bright and heavy coat, with an ax and a fire extinguisher, who would you say he was? A fireman, right? If I brought out a person with a black shirt and a badge, with a radio receiver on their chest and a gun and taizer, who would you say they were? A policeman, right? Now, going back two thousand years, if I brought out a person wearing an old tunic with a belt, and wearing sandals, looking like just about everyone else, who would you say they were? A commoner, nobody, right? “Wrong,” this is the Messiah. God so loved the world that He came into it looking the same. But he did not behave the same.
The only way you would recognize him was by his teachings and healings, and all the miraculous activity that surrounded him.

The key to unlock the mystery of God is to reveal His Son. The Son of God comes to the Jonahs and to the Moses’ and to the Peters in this world, who have proven to struggle with God and man. They are the ones who are cast down into the water but later reach out for God to help them rise. Today you may be like the son of Jonah who is looking for the truth in this capsized world. When you see Jesus, who do you say He is? Has He reached down into your heart and told you that He is the way to lead you home, into the mystery of God made known? Do you see someone who can deliver this sinful generation? Who do you say that I am?
Jesus is still working on you. He is calling you trust in Him as He leads you through some rough water. The key is to keep your eyes on Him. Never let him go.
Afterall, the mystery of God is unlocked by the keys to our faith when we know the Son of the living God.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] St. Anselm
[3] Apostle's Creed
[4] John 16:13-20

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