Today I preached on the gospel lesson for this Sunday. The text was from Matthew 16:13-20. Again I was struck with an application for men as they follow Jesus. In the text Peter makes his confession of who Jesus is by saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v 16). This was the best that Peter could offer on behalf of the other eleven. He was making clear that he and the others thought that Jesus was God. He was the promised Messiah. Peter still had a long ways to go in his understanding of what this meant for him. But he offered would he know to be true. Remember Peter stumbled badly later. Yet the Lord was able to use him. Take courage from one who was “a fragile stone.”
Jesus’ reply to Peter was to encourage him, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out” (vs 17-18 – The Message). Jesus understood that Peter and the others where moving from acquaintance with him to a heart felt commitment. Something was getting internalized. God the Father was revealing to the disciples that this was indeed the Messiah, the promised one. In this regard I appreciate a quote from Soren Kierkegaard: “In order to fully understand what it means to be a Christian, you must stand in the crowd, point to a man and say ‘He is God.'”
What is noteworthy for us as men, is Jesus calling Peter a rock (Petros) and on this rock (petra) I will put together my church. Jesus names Peter as the rock and maintains that on petra, that is Peter’s confession, He will build his church. The thought I have for men is this. By our heart-felt commitment to Jesus we are placed on the rock. This is the most secure place we can stand in our day. While much around us will fail and crumble, the rock will remain. So the question for each of us is, “Am I standing on the rock.” I know there are times when I feeling I am slipping, when in fear and uncertainty I loss my focus on Jesus. But the rock is till there. As I repent of my self-focus, crying out to him in mercy, he hears my prayer and lifts me up back unto the rock. Like Peter instead of being a rock I am more like “a fragile stone.”
So men, when you are on the rock you are in a stable place. Furthermore you get connected with folks who are building on the foundation of Jesus; folks who are on the rock. Listen to what this means. “This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out” (v18 – The Message). Now that is real protection. This should be motivation to be connected with others who are on the rock. But there is more. “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is a no in heaven” (v19 – The Message). You will see the hand of God at work in your life. All this is possible because we are on the rock and have found others who are on the same rock.