If you go into St. Peter’s basilica and look up, at the base of the dome, there are big, distinctive black letters on gold that say (in Latin) “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church . . . and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
These were crucially important words 2,000 years ago, and they’re also an important foundation for the role of the pope in Christ’s kingdom today.
Imagine what it would have been like to have been there during that pivotal conversation between Jesus and Peter. Let’s time travel back to Caesarea Philippi and hear these words as the apostles and others at that time would have heard them. [more]
In our last post we heard Peter”s confession of faith in Matthew 16, which Jesus praised. Today, let”s look at the statement in Matthew 16:18, quoted on the ceiling of St. Peter”s, where Our Lord says “You are Peter.”
The first thing which would have captured the apostles’ attention is the fact that Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. This was not a mere nickname like Bubba or Sparky or Jim-Bob. Nor was this simply a publicity ploy, like the football player Ochocinco or pop star Madonna.
Rather, Jesus was truly giving Simon a new name. This of course is reminiscent of our significant name changes in the Bible, such as Abram (Abraham), Jacob (Israel), and Saul (Paul). In all these cases, the change of name signaled a new vocation and a new mission.
When God set certain people apart for special roles, He often gave them new names to signify their new purpose in the divine plan. For example, Abraham was to be the father of many nations. Israel would be the patriarch of God”s chosen people. Paul was to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.
When Jesus gave Simon a new name, He was setting him apart from the other twelve apostles and bestowing on him a special function. This simple name change alone would have signaled to those apostles and first-century Jews that Jesus was giving Peter an important role to play in His kingdom.
But what was that special role? We”ll find out on Monday!
In the meantime, if you”d like to delve deeper into the Gospel of Matthew, I highly recommend Mystery of the Kingdom, by Dr. Edward (“Ted”) Sri.