Monday, August 21, 2017

The Rock of Christ

Matthew 16:13-20, the gospel text appointed for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, contains perhaps one of the most memorable confessions of all time:  "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God," the confession of Peter the disciple.  Immediately following this, Jesus announces that Peter is blessed because the Father has revealed his identity to Peter, and Jesus declares that upon this confession the Church will be built.  Our question is:  "Is this our cornerstone yet today?"

(The following questions are not meant to be exhaustive, but meant to lift up some of the central concerns of Law and Gospel preachers.  For a more extensive discussion of this genre of preaching, you may find helpful my brief guide to Law and Gospel preaching, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from or amazon.)

1.  How does the Word function in the text?  The Word, in this case, Jesus, functions as pronouncing blessed anyone to whom the Father has revealed the identity of the Son.  If you recognize Jesus as Messiah and Son of the Living God, you are blessed, says Jesus.  You are blessed because God, in mercy, has revealed this to you.  "Flesh and blood" has not revealed this - in other words, we have not figured this out ourselves, nor has another person convinced us of this, but rather the Father has had mercy on us. This announcement of blessedness is a gospel function.

2.  How is the Word not functioning in the text?  I don't see the Word functioning as Law here, that is to say, the Word lifting up our need for Christ.  There is mention of the gates of Hades, but it is clear that Christ has overcome them, so no threat is forthcoming in this text.

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  We are Peter.  We are the ones who are called blessed because of our confession.  We are the ones who are given authority to forgive one another.  We are the ones who are given the secret of the Messiah.  How blessed we are!

4.  What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text?  This is a strange text in that the one who is confessing is called blessed, but then at the end of the text, we are commanded not to be confessors.  It seems to me that being confessors is part of the call to obedience, a call we should follow.

5.  Exegetical work:  If we compare the Markan and Lukan versions of this story, we will note immediately that Matthew alone contains the blessing of Jesus following Peter's confession, and along with it, the announcement regarding Peter's unique place in the church. In Mark and Luke we simply have the confession of Peter followed by Jesus' charge to tell no one that he is the Messiah. Scholars commonly point to this extended saying regarding Peter as evidence of the beginning of the Christian community in Matthew's day.  In  18:18 we have further instructions regarding loosing and binding, so this seems likely.  For our purposes, this beatitude bestowed upon Peter is crucial for it is one that we, as God's people, may claim for ourselves.  Without it we are left with a confession followed by a prohibition and nothing else.  Theodore, 5th century bishop of Mopsuestia, understands Jesus' words to Peter as we Protestants generally have: that it is Peter's confession that is the rock which the church is founded on:  "Having said that his confession is a rock, he stated that upon this rock I will build my church.  This means he will build his church upon this same confession and faith." (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT, vol. 1b, p.45)

6.  How does the Crossings Community model work with this text?  Ron Starenko, in his 2011 analysis of this text, shows how contemporary this text is.  We are in crisis because we have been duped into believing that 'flesh and blood' can reveal all things to us.  Christ confessed is the antidote to our madness.  Christ is the crux of our crisis.  Christ is the only true God who can truly deal with our God-problem.  See study archived under Year A Gospel for complete analysis.

Blessings on your proclamation!

No comments:

Post a Comment