To read the texts click on the texts: Num 20:1-13; Mt 16:13-23
The phrase “from that time Jesus began” is found twice in the Gospel of Matthew once in 4:17 and the second time in 16:21. The latter verse is part of our text for today. Some divide the Gospel into three parts, taking this phrase as the one which points to this division. In this division, the first part is from 1:1 – 4:16, the second from 4:17 – 16:20 and the third from 16:21 – 28:20.
Our text for today, however includes an earlier pericope termed usually as “Peter’s Confession” (16:13-20). The question of Jesus concerning his identity is not because he wanted to be informed about people’s opinion of him, but to draw a contrast between people’s answers and the answer of the disciples. Matthew is the only evangelist who adds Jeremiah to the answers of the people. Some think that Matthew has done so because of Jeremiah’s association with the fall of Jerusalem. Others think that Jeremiah is mentioned because of his prophecy of the new covenant. After hearing through the disciples what the people have to say about his identity, Jesus asks the disciples the same question. The “you” is plural and therefore addressed to all disciples. It is also emphatic. Simon Peter answers on behalf of the group. Matthew adds “the Son of the living God” to Mark’s “Christ”. Only in Matthew does Jesus respond directly to Peter. Peter is not blessed because of a personal achievement, but because of the gift he received from God. Jesus names Peter as rock, the one who holds the keys and the one who binds and looses. Rock here stands for foundation, and though Peter is the foundation, Jesus is the builder. The holder of keys was one who had authority to teach and the one who binds and looses is the one who had authority to interpret authoritatively. The reason for ordering them to tell no one is to reinforce the idea that the community founded by Jesus is distinct from Israel who rejected Jesus.
The second part of the text, is the first of the three (some see Mt 26:2 as a fourth passion and resurrection prediction) passion and resurrection predictions. Peter’s response to this is to “rebuke” Jesus. However, in Matthew, Peter’s response is not as harsh as in Mark because of the use of “Lord” by Peter. Jesus’ counter response to Peter is not as harsh as in Mark, because Jesus does not in turn “rebuke” Peter. Instead, in Matthew, Jesus calls Peter to a newer and deeper understanding of the meaning of discipleship. Peter’s understanding is still on the human level, Jesus invites him to go beyond and further.
Many of us would like to see God as someone who can do all things and be always in control of every situation. However, our God as revealed in Jesus is a God who lets go of not only his divinity but also his humanity. He becomes totally selfless and disponable, at the service of the whole of humanity. If we are to imitate such a God and be disciples of his son, we need to do the same.