Updated: Aug 24, 2020
(Adults, begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child.)
The Gospel for this Sunday occurs after the disciples have been travelling with Jesus for some time. They have listened to his parables. They have witnessed God's miracles. After all this time, Jesus asks the disciples an unusual question:
“who do you say that I am?”
Of course they know his name, so I think Jesus is really sort of asking, "Why are you following me? What are you expecting of me? What do you think is going on here?"
Peter names Jesus
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Messiah means "Anointed One." In the holy scriptures, priests, prophets, and kings are anointed. It means holy oil is poured over their heads because they have been chosen by God for something very important. Oil does not wash away like water. It sinks into the skin; it becomes part of the body. When someone is anointed, holy oil is used. Oil that is filled with the presence of God.
People had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Anointed One to come. God had told the prophets, and they had listened. In the holy scriptures we hear about the Messiah who is to come.
Somehow, Peter knows that Jesus is the Messiah. Peter is not the smartest guy in the world. How can he know this?
Peter also says that Jesus is the Son of the living God. Before Jesus was ever born, the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
The angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would be called Son of God and here it is actually happening! Peter is calling Jesus the Son of God.
Why does Peter call Jesus Messiah and Son of God? Jesus doesn't go around calling himself these names. How is it that Peter could know this about him?
There is only one way that Peter could know this. Jesus says,
“For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
God has given this knowledge to Peter.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God reveals to Peter who Jesus is.
Son of God to Son of Jonah
Jesus then names Peter right back.
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!...I tell you, you are Peter”
Peter's name, given to him by his parents, is actually Simon. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls him by a new name. He calls him "Peter" which means "rock."
Why does Jesus give Peter a new name?
Remember, Jesus begins by asking, "Who do you say I am?" which seems to mean, "Why are you following me? What are you expecting of me?" Now it seems Jesus is telling Peter, "This is who I say you are. This is why you follow. This is what I expect of you:
“on this rock I will build my church”
What can Jesus mean? Peter is not really a rock. He might be strong like a rock, but still, how can Jesus build a church on a person?
The word "church" is interesting, because in Jesus' time there are no churches in Israel, there are only synagogues. The word Jesus uses here means the people who gather together. Peter as the rock, as the strong one, is the foundation. He is the first one, the one at the beginning of all the gathering people. Jesus the Messiah, the Anointed One, the One Chosen by God, chooses Peter. He chooses Peter to be the beginning of the church.
Jesus tells Peter,
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of God
What are the keys to the kingdom?
All those parables Jesus has been telling about the kingdom of God--could these be the keys? Small like a mustard seed, great like hidden treasure...are these keys?
Those miracles the disciples have witnessed, that have shown what the kingdom of God is like--could these be the keys, too?
Jesus gives them all to Peter. Peter, the rock, the beginning of the church. He has the keys to the kingdom of God.
What does Peter do with the keys?
God reveals to Peter who Jesus is. But we know who he is, too. We know Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. What has been given to Peter has been given to us.
Jesus chooses Peter to begin the church, the gathering of the people of God. The Anointed One calls him by name. At our Baptism we are called by name and we are anointed--we become people of God. We are chosen. What has been given to Peter has been given to us.
Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom of God to Peter at the beginning of the church. He holds the parables, the miracles--all the treasures. And they are given to us.