But who do you say that I am?

Clergy Corner by Fr. Theo

When Jesus quizzes the apostles about His developing reputation, they are well aware of what people were saying. The apostles had families and friends; they heard the conjectures about the itinerant preacher. The Jews, from their own history, had lots of ideas of who Jesus might be—Elijah, Jeremiah, or “one of the prophets.” Some even thought the spirit of the now dead John the Baptist had somehow come back to live in Jesus. Then comes the pivotal question: “But who do you say that I am?”

Jesus asks about the opinion of “men.” Aren’t the apostles also men?  Indeed, they are “flesh and blood,” like all of us. However, Simon responds to the question with a divine answer, as Jesus makes clear.  Simon declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This was not a truth that came simply through observation, study, personal reflection, or intense holiness. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.”  Simon, a man, had gotten a revelation from God. His ability to make this confession did not come from him alone. In an extraordinary moment, a man spoke God’s words. 

In such a moment, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, or “rock.”  Jews, from their history, understood that when God changed a man’s name, it represented a change in his God-given role in salvation history. Simon Peter’s confession made explicit an interior work of God in him. On that basis, Jesus makes him “the rock” upon which He will build His Church. Just as the Temples of the Old Testament were built on a great stone (1 Kings 5:17), Jesus will build His Church upon the foundational rock of Peter.

 

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