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 Dare We?

There are lots of possible truthful answers to Jesus' question "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13); prophet, teacher, storyteller, healer, wonder-worker, rabble-rouser, friend, exorcist, Nazarene, Jew, son of Joseph.  We come to know one another from many angles; in experiences and relationships, by what others say; on Facebook, Twitter, the six o'clock news; at Monday coffee group, happy hour; through factory newsletters, class yearbooks.  One might be, all at once, author, gardener, mother, felon, philanthropist, swimmer.

Jesus begins by asking what people say about him---what's the word on the street?  As expected, responses are a mixture of religious, political, and personal perspectives.  Then Jesus cuts closer, exacting from his disciples their answer.  "Who do you say that I am?"  (Matthew 16:15).  It might seem that he's quizzing the group with a trick question to see who answers rightly and thus gets rewarded with keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Peter's answer gains him the glory.  If that episode was all Matthew's gospel recorded, we might conclude that Peter did, in fact, recognize Jesus more clearly than the others.  But every one of the disciples had made that very same confession.  "You are the Son of God.", in the safety of a seaworthy boat with Jesus on a calmed sea (Matthew 14:33).  In this sense, Peter's response was predictable.

However, Matthew bothers to write that this happ3end in Caesarea Philippi, also known as Paneas, site of a famous shrine to Pan, god of shepherds.  Named for Caesar, the emperor, and Philip, ruler of the region, it is identified with imperial power.  In the context of tremendous political and religious forces, Jesus ask, "Who do you say that I am?".

In this sense, it is a brave confession when Peter names Jesus---not Caesar---as Chosen, Lord, and presence of God.  Jesus' way of blessing the world contradicts all that empire is about.  On that confession the church is called to stand---today.  Dare we?

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