Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 16: 13-20: Don’t Tell?

People have made a religion about telling others that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God come to seek and save the lost, the salvation of the world, the crucified one, and etc.  Okay, fine.  I won’t speak against this, however…

This is one of the – and perhaps THE pivotal passage in all of scripture.  Dubbed, “Peter’s Confession,” it is the first outright recognition of just exactly who this Jesus guy is.  Jesus is glad to hear it.  He blesses the whole idea.  He will build his church on this idea.  He gives his disciples to whom he is talking (sorry, not just Peter, though Peter was the one who answered for the group) the “Keys of the Kingdom” which he describes as binding and loosing on earth as in Heaven.  Then he says one more thing.

He ORDERS (commands, demands) that they not tell anyone.  What?

Did you ever tell a funny story about something in your life and when you got to the end you realized the person you were talking to has no idea what you were talking about?  What is the standard line?  You had to be there.

Did you ever wonder how those NBA stars can jump high enough to slam that big basketball into that little hoop?  Maybe not, but I am sure it take practice and more practice.  Then it takes some more practice.  It also helps to have a bit of a God-given gift, and I don’t mean “skill” or “talent.”  (Practice can do wonders in overcoming lack of skill and talent for most).  No, I mean not everyone is born to be seven feet tall.

I think between these two ideas we might get an inkling as to why Jesus might have said, “Don’t tell.”

First, I believe in part Jesus’ command was a recognition of human nature.  I have a friend to this day who swears he saw bigfoot.  Yeah, yeah… but a fantastic claim like that requires some evidence, some verification.  That is not science talking.  That is human nature.  None of us is inclined to believe something so outrageous without some proof.  If the disciples went out and started blabbing that Jesus was the Messiah, all that would do is inspire some people to have Peter, James and John committed to the nearest loony bin.

“You had to be there” is the human way to say it.  I don’t mean you had to be walking by when Jesus asked the question and Peter answered.  I mean you had to be there all along.  People had to see Jesus, hear him, watch him, get close to him to really know him.  From a human standpoint, that would be like the evidence people would need.  Peter had all the evidence and yet when he spoke for the group, I read it as an unsettled question in the group – and those were the people who knew Jesus best at that point in history.  Peter lucked out.  He guessed right.

Second, though, is the spiritual matter, and it relates to the idea that not everyone is born to be seven feet tall.  Jesus was clear about that.  It was not flesh and blood that revealed Jesus, but God, the Father in Heaven.  God, to this day is still the only revealer, and needs to be respected for that.  Perhaps some who have made a religion out of “bringing people to Christ” need to show more respect.  Yes, we must tell others about Jesus.  We must invite them to get to know Jesus.  We must hold nothing back about Jesus.  But then we need to let go and let God, as they say. 

Thinking hard about it will not add one inch to our stature.  But God can.  With God all things are possible for those who believe and are called according to HIS purposes.  Once we have done all we can do, it is in God’s hands today as it was back then to reveal just exactly who this Jesus guy is.  Only then, by the revelation of God, will the person find themselves suddenly seven feet tall and, with a little practice, able to slam-dunk with the best of them.


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