bible blog 1351

This blog offers a mediation on  the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


Matthew 16:13-20

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

13 When Jesus came into the territory around Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who are people saying the Son of Man is?” 14 They said, “Well, some say Yochanan the Immerser, others Eliyahu, still others Yirmeyahu or one of the prophets.” 15 “But you,” he said to them, “who do you say I am?” 16 Shim‘on Petros answered, “You are the Mashiach, the Son of the living God.” 17 “Shim‘on Son of John,” Jesus said to him, “how blessed you are! For no human being revealed this to you, no, it was my Father in heaven. 18 I also tell you this: you are Petros,” [which means ‘Rock,’] “and on this rock I will build my Community, and the powers of evil will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 20 Then he warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Oh, this has been a troublesome passage ever since the Roman Catholic Church used it (illigitimately) as a justification for the authority of the Pope, as the successor of Peter. All kinds of efforts have been made, not excluding very dubious translations, by those who wan to deny that authority. So what can we take from it?



1.Peter expresses his faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God in a place marked with the names of Greek and Roman conquerors.
1. Jesus’ made a pun on Peter’s name, probably in Aramaic in which the name and the rock are both KEFA. Peter whom Jesus knew to be a bit a flaky is called a rock because ultimately his faith in Jesus as God’s son will be stronger than any of his weaknesses. Some protestant scholars want to say that Jesus meant his confession of faith to be the rock, but that seems forced and in any case Jesus built on people rather than doctrines.
3. Jesus speaks of his community of faith which is not the kingdom but guides people towards it. As it does so, the powers of evil will not conquer it.
4. Peter will be as a chief steward of the kingdom, holding its keys and opening its doors for others.
5. He will exercise the power of interpreting the teaching of Jesus for new situations as the community grows, and God will approve his decisions. (The phrases “prohibited and permitted in heaven” do not mean “in God’s kingdom” but simply mean “upheld by God”.

It may seem that this is a terrible power to give to human beings -note that in chapter 18 verse 18 it is given to all the disciples-but we should understand that it is no more than the power the Bible gives to all the prophets to say, “This is God’s word.” Jesus says that in the new community of faith, Peter and the disciples will be called to announce God’s Word.

Matthew presents Jesus as completely committed to the human community that will be his witnesses. Whatever God has been doing in his ministry

the powers of evil shall not prevail....

the powers of evil shall not overcome it

will be continued in that of his disciples. There is no divine plan B: just as God has entrusted his goodness to his son Jesus, so Jesus entrusts his goodness to his disciples. If they fail, he fails. The keys, that is, the means by which God’s house is opened to all, have been handed over: love of God and neighbour, humility, modesty, compassion, peace-making, purity, readiness to suffer, these and others have been demonstrated by Jesus for his followers, and he relies on them to make these real in new times and places.  

Sometimes I wonder why God can’t see the folly of relying on people like Peter or me.  

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