Ready or Not . . . - Matthew 16:13–20
People are very quick to form opinions about another person, even if they have never met them. We do this with public figures, such as politicians, musicians and singers, actors, and sports people. We attribute to them some sense of worth in what they say and do according to the impression they give in public. So when they speak in favour of moral or ethical issues, we think they somehow have a valued and worthy contribution to make. But pick up any number of the gossip tabloids, and you suddenly get a glimpse into the mess their lives actually are. The person they present is very different to the person they actually are.
Sadly, too many Christians are much the same. They present a public image based on what they think is popular, or valued, or worthwhile even if at times it contradicts God and His Word. They parade a life of seemingly good and valued works, and in doing so claim credit to their personal opinion. And people, who want to have what they think affirmed as true, flock to these individuals. But too often the person they present to the world is often not the person they truly are.
Once again, Matthew’s Gospel presents us with a similar scenario. Jesus is again at loggerheads with the Pharisees and the Sadducees who demand that Jesus give them a sign of his authority. But Jesus refuses, and warns his disciples about listening to them. Their message, as appealing as it may sound, is fundamentally corrupt. Even just a little of it is like leaven which affects the entire loaf. In response, Jesus then asks the disciples to work out who they think Jesus actually is. Their first response is to say what others are saying. But Jesus forces the issue and asks them to say what they think. Again, Peter steps up and declares Jesus to be the Christ, the very Messiah the Pharisees and Sadducees were demanding Jesus prove with a sign.
If you were to ask any number of people, your family, neighbours, friends, even strangers on the streets, who Jesus was, I reckon you will get a broad range of answers. Almost certainly, many of them will be personal opinion, or opinion based on what they have heard others say. They will lay claim to notions of Jesus’ love and compassion and mercy, not framed by the Word of God, but determined by their own personal desires. It is surprising how many think they know Jesus, and how few actually know Him for real. The only true Jesus is the one revealed to us in God’s Word. He is the Christ, the son of the living God.
The rock upon which Jesus promises to build His church is not Peter. What a sad church we would be if we were built on the personality of religious leaders, such as the Pharisees or Sadducees of our modern world. The confession of faith that peter makes is the only sure thing that offers salvation, eternal life, hope, and love. It is the power by which the Church forgive and withholds forgiveness.
We have a lot of work to do as God’s people in reclaiming the Jesus of the Bible. The varied opinions that are offered about him, need realignment to the single Word proclaimed in the Scriptures – He is the Christ, the son of the living God. Only by this name can people find the love, grace, and unconditional acceptance they crave. It is only in this name can the hope the world so desperately seeks be redeemed and freely offered to all who, like Peter, believe that Jesus died, rose, and now sits as the glorified Saviour of a world lost in its own quagmire of personal opinions.