I sit in complete quietness and stillness – just imbibing and enjoying Gods presence here with me. My spiritual eye wanders over the words, “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, I see that figure on the cross. The whole world? I am just a speck in His creation, yet He has died for me!
“ You are right, in size you are just a speck against the background of the entire creation – but in My heart you are as important as any other person I have ever created. My love is vast; no eye has seen nor ear has heard of how vast My love is – for you and for every person I have created. My death covers all those, but it is intimately personal – for each person who wishes to receive my love it is freely available – and you stand central in that love of mine. You cannot really grasped the full extent and significance of that, because My way is vastly higher than yours and so just accept what I am telling you, by faith – and it will be real to you.”
Chapter 16 is a turning point in the gospel story. Up till now Jesus has been showing in many ways who He was. As the disciples found their eyes opened to who He really was, He would then need to show them, what sort of Messiah He was/is. A king who would humble Himself and die for His subjects to place Himself on the ultimate throne.
To highlight the importance of this confession, Matthew contrasts their reaction to the reaction of the religious leaders. This is the second time that the Pharisees have demanded a sign cf 12:38. However they were blind to the many signs that Jesus had already given. The many healings and exorcisms, but especially the feeding miracles. Notice their demand comes immediately after the description of the feeding of the 4000 in ch 15. See also how Jesus emphasizes the feeding miracles in 16:8-10. So what is the yeast, the central sin of these people? The answer is right there in vs 8, do you see it? “Oh you of little faith”. Faith is believing what you cannot see. They wanted to see before they would believe. Ever felt like that?
And the disciples? Were they so good and clever? Jesus puts the question in vs 13 to them all, “Who do the people say I am?” They give Him all the versions going around. Then He fingers them personally, “But you, who do you say I am?” Wow! At last they seem to have grasped it, but have they? And even then, Jesus reminds them that they had not worked this out on their own, it was a revelation from God which had opened their minds. But there is an important ingredient in this opening of their understanding. Remember the yeast of the Pharisees? Well in vs 20 Jesus had again highlighted this important ingredient for the disciples’ enlightenment. Can you see it? Yes, there is that little word faith.
How does faith interplay with God’s revelation? Well this seems to be a bit of a mystery. Faith is the bed in which Jesus can open their understanding. But even that is a gift from God, according to Ephesians 2:8. Nevertheless we are shown how important our responsibility is to exercise it, if we are to hear Jesus speak to us.
Now this confession of Peter, on which the whole church would be built is nevertheless just a step towards true understanding of the Messiah’s mission. That is the next message which starts immediately after Peter’s confession and is the main subject of the remainder of the gospel.. Lets follow that next week.
What is Jesus saying to me from this passage? If I am “Listening”, then it means I need to be exercising faith by expecting Jesus to speak to me and then to open my eyes and ears to His voice. The sign that I am exercising faith is my willingness to respond and obey what Jesus has to say to me.