When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16:13-23)
Today’s Gospel is a powerful teaching about faith and the lack thereof!
Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter stood up and boldly replied that Jesus was far more than a great prophet, far more than the greatest figure in centuries, far more even than Moses. He wasn’t just the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior for whom the Jews had been waiting for a millennium. He was the Son of the Living God.
Peter’s proclamation was a great act of faith, a bold profession holding nothing back. We all have a lot to learn from how God the Father moved Peter to confess the identity of his Son, because God the Father wants to give us the same gift.
But as we know from scripture, such solid faith does not fully describe Peter. In 16:21-27 Jesus will rebuke Peter for not accepting the message of the cross saying, “you are a stumbling block to me” (16:23). The “rock” Peter is both a firm foundation and a stumbling stone. in 14:22-33 when Peter tries to walk on the water, doubts, and then begins to sink. As Jesus pulls him up out of the waves, he says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (14:31).
Describing Peter’s situation as one of “little faith” is certainly a rebuke, but it is a gentle one. It describes a situation in which real faith is present, but doubt is as well—a mixed condition in which belief and weakness coincide. Like the rest of the disciples who are “of little faith,” Peter is both a real believer and also one prone to weakness and doubt.
In truth, our faith is much like Peter’s. We really believe, but we never believe completely. Although our flaws like Peter’s can cause others to stumble and fall, our faith, if it is real, can provide a foundation upon which the belief of others can stand. Our faith is seldom great and never perfect, but God still calls us to change the world. In that mission, our little faith will have to do.
Far too many will profess their faith through their lips but not their hearts. We talk the talk but not walk the walk. Yes, we are human and frail. God knows that. That’s why prayer and reflection are so important. He wants each of us to be a rock of faith. He wants us to so live our lives that others see Christ in our lives. That is where our faith directs us.
That means not just belief in him but it means trusting him. Knowing that each step we take toward living him is both guided by him and strengthened by him. And the secret is that by trusting in God, by believing in His presence, by living out our faith does not simply lead us to the kingdom. It increases our joy and confidence as we proceed towards it.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, I profess and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You are my Lord and my Savior who has set me free from sin and deception. Make my faith strong like the Apostles Peter and Paul and give me boldness to speak of you to others that they may come to know you as Lord and Savior.”
Jesus asked his disciples a rather generic question: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” But there was no mistaking the very personal nature of the second question, “And who do you say that I am?” Our relationship with Jesus, to which every single one of us is invited, knows no end, has no gaps in time, is 24/7 and makes every minute of our life count in a new and profound way. Loving Christ gives our life its whole meaning.