Because Zoom fell out during our service today, the recording is in 2 parts with 2 videos so please watch part 1 followed by part 2.
This is part 1 https://youtu.be/WGn8Vte9-xA
and this is part 2 https://youtu.be/o1-v9WBQsaY
Matthew 16:13-20 – Building on the Foundation
One of my favourite programmes on TV is “Who do you think you are?” the series which explores celebrities’ ancestry.
Some people know bits of their history, others feel they know, many have no idea. The late actor, John Hurt fell in the 2nd category. He felt, no he was convinced, he had Irish blood in him and that his ancestors were from the Emerald Isle. It turned out they were all from Grimsby! He may have been a great actor but was unable to hide his disappointment!
Who do you say I am? Jesus asks Well they had an idea. He was Joseph’s son, the carpenter from Nazareth, older brother of James. They may have known he was cousin of John the Baptist. Some thought he might even be John the Baptist reincarnated after John’s untimely death. He could be Elijah one of the great prophets or Jeremiah one of the latter prophets. But Simon, son of Jonah, I know who you are who do you say I am?
Let’s look at this picture
Painted by Perugino and hanging in the Sistine Chapel, this picture depicts Peter’s declaration at Caesarea Philippi. We see Peter kneeling before Jesus in front of a temple, newly built, to Caesar Augustus, which takes us back to John Hurt again who in that classic drama I Claudius played Caligula alongside Brian Blessed as Augustus and it was Augustus who was made a god by Claudius and a temple was built in his honour at Philippi where the Greek god Pan was supposed to live in the caves there. Situated below Mount Hermon heading to the heavens and descending through the caves to the underworld; this was a highly significant location for a variety of religions. Peter is kneeling before Jesus holding two keys one for heaven, one for hell. In Mark and Luke, Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah, which marks a turning point in Jesus’ ministry and these gospels because this is the first time Jesus is identified by someone as Messiah. But Matthew goes further; Peter’s declaration is Jesus is not only Messiah but the Son of the living God. His vocation is as Messiah which means anointed one, for a purpose. His identity is in and is God; the Son of the living God, confirmed by God at his baptism and subsequently by other disciples in Matthew. While Jesus may have been called Son of God or Son of Man elsewhere in Matthew; this is the first time he is declared Messiah and Jesus responds to Peter’s declaration and with some wordplay that works well in Greek but not so much in Aramaic, the language in which Jesus preached, where the word for rock is Cephas. Jesus renames Simon as Peter meaning rock (petra) and on this rock, Peter, Christ will build his church, ecclesia; the only time Matthew ever uses this word.
Who do you say I am? Simon is given a new identity and a new vocation in Christ’s church. When, or if I am ordained next month, hands, suitably Covid cleansed are placed on me by a Bishop , we are invited to believe, in succession to Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and it all started here in Caesarea Philippi with Peter’s declaration. It does have parallels. In Isaiah 51 the prophet writes “Look to the rock from which you were cut, and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave you birth,” reminding the people of their heritage in Abraham and identity in God, the rock. Peter’s referral to Christ’s identity was recognised and his vocation confirmed. In this new covenant, Peter’s identity is changed and his vocation confirmed and nothing, not even the gates of hell will prevent it and so too, we are changed, made new. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God and nothing will prevent that either.
Who do you say I am? We started with family history discoveries. Our own Archbishop, Justin, made such a discovery, when by DNA and research it was discovered he was not his father’s biological son, who his mother married 9 months before Justin was born but the child of the Private Secretary to Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Montague Browne. In an interview asking how this affected him; ++ Justin replied “”I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes…” That courageous statement so clearly expressed the reality that we, as believers are all children of God, or to quote the catechism “wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.”
We need to be clear, Christ is the headstone, the foundation stone and the cornerstone of our church. Our faith is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and his righteousness but the Church grew through the faith and founding works of the Apostles as is confirmed to us in Acts and continues to grow through the work of Christ’s modern day apostles, who could and should be you and my prayer as I prepare to move on, is that it will be you. Who do you say I am? My identity is in Jesus Christ the sure foundation of my faith and church and he never changes. AMEN