From Matthew Henry's Commentary
God, well-spring of all wisdom and font of every insight, you inspired Simon Peter to confess Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and on the rock of this faith you built your church. Pour out your Spirit in abundance, that all may join in this profession, and so become living stones built up into your church, standing firm upon the one foundation, which is our Lord Jesus Christ.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
The passage for this Sunday's Gospel is the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Son of the Living God. It is Peter's proclamation on the road to Caesarea Philippi. It is an important theological passage for Christianity and is an important passage within the Gospel of Matthew.
We begin the passage with Jesus' question to his disciples. This then reveals that Jesus is a great prophet. It isn't simply that he is compared to the great heroes of the Jewish faith. He is on par with, he is equal to, Jeremiah, Elijah, and John the Baptist. He is not simply a great prophet he is the greatest of prophets. He is the Christ, Son of the Living God. The message of Jesus is the continuation of the ancient faith of Israel. He is the fulfillment of all the hope of Israel. He is the omega of salvation-history. At the same time he is doing something radically new - he is birthing (through word and spirit) the Church.
Jesus in Matthew's Gospel is the one who is laying the foundation of a living Word that will withstand the powers and principalities of both this world and the world to come. He is building up living stones and a kingdom of priests to expand the reign of the kingdom of God - this "eschatalogical temple." (Allison/Davies, Matthew, 642)
There is a great debate among scholars as to Matthew's own Christology. Did he think of Jesus as God in the same way as John and his Gospel? In point of fact no direct statement is made. Yet, in my opinion the author of this Gospel indeed understands Jesus as God. For in my reading of Matthew Jesus not only is the continuum of messianic hope he is the culmination as well. He is here on this road proclaimed as the Son of the Living God. Matthew's Gospel is clear about its revelation - Jesus is one with God and therefore transcends the simple relationship of follower or prophet of the most high God.
Furthermore, this Jesus is the one who has been given the power and authority to call forth the new community of faithful followers into the kingdom. In this section of the narrative of Jesus, in this moment, on the road to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus is seen as Lord of this new kingdom. He is in the miracle of loaves and fishes, in the stilling of the storm, he is bringing together a new people of God. This new people of God is made up of those who unlike many of the religious powers of his day have not rejected him and those who are on the fringes of religious society - to include Gentiles. This is the God made man who in sitting and eating with sinners and tax collectors is binding together a new family of God.
Jesus in his ministry, and from this point on in Matthew's Gospel, is passing along the inheritance of the kingdom of God. Jesus is gathering in and multiplying the numbers of Abraham's descendants. He is through the power of the Holy Spirit taking the spirit that has been under the custodial leadership of the religious authorities of his day and is placing that spirit upon a new people, a growing people, a diverse people - the ecclesia - The People of God.
The image of this new people of God is not the perfected disciple but the disciple Peter, the one whose faith led him to step out of the boat, the one whose faith has revealed the true nature of Jesus, the one who also will struggle with his faith and deny him during the passion tide. This imperfect human is the one upon whom the church, the new ecclesia, is built.
Allison and Davies write this beautiful passage about the revelation of Jesus as Son of the Living God and spiritual architect of the new people of God:
Jesus is the Son promised in 2 Sam 7.4-16, the king who builds the eschatological temple. This temple is the church. Like the old temple, it is founded on a rock. But unlike the old temple, it has no geographical location. It is not in Jerusalem. The new, eschatological temple is a spiritual temple. It stands under the rule: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (18:20; cf. Jn 4:21). Mathew is thus at one with the rest of the NT in substituting for the Holiness of place the holiness of a person: holy space has been Christified. (Allison/Davies, Matthew, 642)Allison and Davies contend, and I think it is a great image, that just as Jesus is himself the New Covenant so Peter is then the New Abraham. They write:
The parallels between 16:13-20 and Genesis 17:1-8 indicate that Peter functions as a new Abraham. He is the first of his kind, and he stands at the head of a new people. Peter is, like Abraham, a rock (cf. Isa 51:1-2), and the change in his name denotes his function. What follows? Peter is not just a representative disciple, as so many Protestant exegetes have been anxious to maintain. Nor is he obviously the first holder of an office others will someday hold, as Roman Catholic tradition has so steadfastly maintained. Rather, he is a man with a unique role in salvation history. The eschatological revelation vouchsafed to him opens a new era. His person marks a change in the times. His significance is the significance of Abraham, which is to say: his faith is the means by which God brings a new people into being. (Allison/Davies, Matthew, 642ff)This week's Gospel lesson is as much about Jesus as it is about Peter. We need leaders in each Episcopal congregation (clergy and lay) who are ready to give voice to the proclamation of Jesus as Son of the Living God and Lord of all; and to incarnate their faith in living a living Word that is Gospel. We need leadership who will also see themselves not simply as disciples of a particular kind but in the tradition of Peter and Abraham; ready to take steps out into the world. We need leadership who are ready to be the stones upon which new churches are designed and built. We need leaders who are through their ministry ushering in a new era of Gospel proclamation and mission. We need leaders who by means of their faith God is bringing a new people, a new ecclesia, into being.
A Little Bit for Everyone
Oremus Online NRSV Text
General Resources for Sunday's Lessons
Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel
Some interesting articles on this passage:
Chris Haslam's clippings blog
Matthew in the Margins
William Loader's First Thoughts
The Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.
The Kaleidescope Institute has reworked the questions somewhat and can be found here.
Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question
Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.
2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.
3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.
4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.
5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.
6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.
7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"
8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.
9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."