bible blog 862 SUNDAY EXTRA

Glasgow March against Government economic policy

Glasgow marchers yesterday

Matthew 16:13-20

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah,* the Son of the living God.’17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.18And I tell you, you are Peter,* and on this rock* I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was* the Messiah.*

Who is this Peter to whom Jesus gives such authority? He is the one who immediately has to be “bound” (Get behind me, Satan) because he does not understand the sacrificial ministry of Jesus. He is the one who has to be loosed (John 21) by Jesus from his imprisonment by guilt (also Satanic) at having denied his Lord.  Peter is just the average disciple who finds that following Jesus is tough going. He represents the Christian community in all its strength and frailty.

What is binding and loosing? These words were used by Rabbis after the time of Jesus, to describe the power of making authoritative judgements on what was and was not permitted for Jews. But in Matthew 12:29 the word “bind” is attributed to Jesus in the sense of “tying up the Devil”, that is, limiting his power, so that his prisoners may be “loosed.” There is some evidence that the rabbis also used the words in this sense.

Putting these bits of evidence together, it seems likely to me that Jesus was talking primarily about the power to bind the power of evil and to set people free from its bonds and secondarily about authoritative decisions which would support that ministry by forbidding or permitting certain teachings or actions.

But will God bind his wisdom to the possible folly of his church? There’s a possibility that the Greek could be translated “whatever you bind on earth will (already) be bound in heaven,” that is, any successful human binding of the power of evil will accompanied or preceded by God’s will that it should be so.

So Jesus is blessing Peter with the power to open God’s rule to people by doing God’s work of hog-tying the devil and setting his prisoners free.

My own Church of Scotland was being Peter this week when it declared support for yesterday’s UK marches against Government policies which are placing heavier and heavier burdens on the backs of the poor. Our church regards this as Satanic and wants to overturn (bind) these policies. I believe that what the church seeks in this instance to bind on earth will be (already) bound in heaven.


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