Peter”s Confession of Faith

Today”s Gospel is taken from Matthew 16. It”s the famous account of Peter”s confession of faith and Jesus” response. Over the next few posts, we will gradually unpack this rich passage.

Today, let”s consider this: Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” People seem to be saying different things. But then He makes it very personal. He says, “But you, Peter, who do YOU say that I am?” That question goes out to all of us.

Peter”s response comes in verse 16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This concise answer recognizes (a) Jesus’ divinity, as well as (b) His status as the Messiah-King of Israel.

This answer gets an A plus. (I have to admit that saying this conjures up thoughts of Ralphie’2012-04-24 18:35:27′s bb gun essay in The Christmas Story, but I digress.)
 
In this scene, Peter became the first person in Matthew’s Gospel to explicitly recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Then Jesus gives Him the beautiful blessing of verses 17-19:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

But what does this blessing mean? At first blush, this doesn’t seem to be about putting Peter and his successors in charge. We need to go a little deeper.

In our next installment, we will examine the significance of Peter”s new name.

2 Responses to “Peter”s Confession of Faith”

  1. Thomas says:

    I enjoyed the post and love that passage which establishes the authority of Peter as first Pope. I”d like however to note one small but crucial mistake: our Lord does pose the question to Peter alone as you suggest, He uses the plural (‘Umeis de tina me legete einai?), thus asking the all the Apostles. This helps strengthen your point that he is asking all of us through the ages as well. Our Lord shifts to the SINGULAR when he responds to Peter and gives him the keys to the kingdom. A very significant shift of person, in the grammatical sense, signifying that only Peter was given the power to bind and loose on heaven and earth.

    I can”t encourage my fellow Catholics enough to learn Greek (as well as Latin), so as to be able to refer to the original texts of the New Testament. Many Evangelicals have studied Greek, at least enough to throw some words around and gain authority in theological discussion. But the original texts support Catholic teaching on every possible, so if you can go to the original Greek, there can be no rebuttal.

    I can”t encourage my fellow Catholics enough to learn Greek (as well as Latin), so as to be able to refer to the original texts of the New Testament. Many Evangelicals have studied Greek, at least engough to throw some words around and gain authority in theological discussion. But the orignal texts support Catholic teaching on every possible, so if you can go to the orignial Greek, there can be no rebuttal.

  2. leon says:

    Amen to that, Thomas. Surely in all the passages that describe the encounter Our Lord is speaking to the apostles, asking what they say (as opposed to what everyone else is saying). Peter takes it upon himself to speak on behalf of the group (which in itself speaks to the reality of the Pope as the head of the college of bishops). I wasn”t quoting Scripture when I added "Peter" to the question, but was illustrating that all of us are called to make a bold profession of faith. This was Peter”s moment.

    Btw, the shift in tense is significant, but note that the "binding and loosing" authority originally given to Peter was also given to the other apostles united with Peter in Matthew 18 (not to mention John 20:23-24; see generally CCC 1444-45). Even so, your point is well taken. I need to get my language books out of storage!

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