Rev. Bill Stephens left his staff role at The Church of the Resurrection in 2011, where he had served in the Silver Link ministry for several years. He is continuing to minister to smaller congregations in the Kansas City area, while remaining an active member at Resurrection (including his participation as a Saturday Insights blogger).
I always like to look at the context of a passage of scripture. In this way I can focus on not only the event that takes place but also the area in which it happens.
In this passage (Matthew 16: 13-18) an event takes place that sets the tone for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. It takes place in the northern part of Israel called Caesarea-Philippi. There is another Caesarea in Israel called Casarea-Maritine. This is on the coast of Israel and was the headquarters of the Roman Governor Pilate.
In our passage for today the location is as important as the event. This area of Israel has a number of caves. Tradition holds that the ancient gods of Greek Mythology lived in these caves. I think Jesus brought his disciples to this location to ask that searching question, “Who do the people say that I am?” Also the follow-up question was, “Who do you say that I am?”
In that location the disciples were surrounded by these caves of the Greek gods. The disciples had many gods to choose from. It would like going to a grocery store and wanting a can of beans. What kind of beans? Pinto beans? Chili beans? Green beans? You see the choices are often many. So it was with the disciples that day. It is as if Jesus was asking, “Of all the gods represented here in this location, which one am I?”
The disciples answered the first question with these words, “And some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (verse 14) The next question moves from a general comment as to who Jesus is to a personal question, “But who do you say that I am?” (verse 15) That question still echoes down through the centuries to each person who is a follower of Jesus. That question is still valid for each one of us today. We have many gods from which to choose today. There is the god of power, the god of sexuality, the god of being popular, the god of money. The list is even longer than the one the disciples could choose from there in Caesarea-Philippi.
It is Peter who comes forth with his strong affirmation: “You are the Christ (the chosen One), the Son of the living God.” (verse 16) How would you answer that question today? It is still there each and every day of our life. Jesus affirms Peter’s proclamation with these words, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter (Rock), I will build my Church, the powers of death shall not prevail against it…..” (verse 17)
Let us pray: O Lord, open my eyes, ears and heart to these words and this experience of the disciples. May I ever be mindful that I belong to you and you belong to me! Amen.
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.