Day Twenty-three: Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 16:1-28
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“The Rock of our Salvation”
“Peter means rock.” My bible has that as a footnote for Matthew 16:18. In this one verse, Jesus not only makes clear that Simon son of Jonah (see Matthew 16:17) is Peter, which means rock, Jesus also says, “On this rock I will build my church.” Some traditions take that to mean Peter is the rock on which Jesus will build the church. But others believe the rock Jesus is referring to is the confession Peter has just made.
What is the confession Peter has just made? Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Initially Jesus asked who others said he was, but in Matthew 16:15, Jesus makes the question personal. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonah, makes a declaration that has been the rock on which Jesus has built his church.
Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonah, Peter, the rock, makes this confession. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The hope and prayer of the Christian Church, the church that takes its name from Jesus Christ, is that one day every knee would bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When Peter, the rock, made his confession, which is the rock on which Christ will build his church, he became the model for all who follow Jesus. Peter took the question personally. Peter’s confession was not about what others said. Peter’s confession was his own confession. Jesus asked, “But what about you?” Peter took the question personally, and so his confession was personal. “You are the Christ.”
Rock and stone are two words that have a central place in our faith as Christians. Entering Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday, Jesus was greeted by an adoring crowd that called out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Those words from Psalm 118, words that an adoring crowd used to proclaim salvation in the name of Jesus, follow on another well-known verse found in Psalm 118. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The bedrock of our faith, the cornerstone of our faith, the capstone of our faith, is Jesus Christ.
Immediately following Peter’s glorious confession of faith, we find Peter still has more to learn. Peter still has much more to learn as we see him stumble, rebuking Jesus when Jesus predicts that his journey as Christ, his journey as Son of God will take him to Jerusalem, where he will suffer and die. When we confess our faith in Christ it is a glorious day, a day worthy of celebration and thanksgiving. But as with Peter, to confess Christ does not mean our journey comes to an end. The rock of our salvation is the stone that was rejected, and for many of us it is a lifelong journey to grasp the fullness of God’s strange and yet ever so wonderful gift of salvation. Our Savior suffers. Our King dies. Our God is crucified.
As the Good News of Jesus Christ is filled with references to rock and stone, so are some of the great hymns of our faith. As you read these words from this beautiful hymn, consider what your answer is to the question our Lord puts before us today. “Who do you say I am?”
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me let me hide myself in thee.
Let the water and the blood from thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure, cleanse from guilt and make me pure.”
(Rock of Ages, first verse)
“From that time on…” After the Holy Spirit reveals to Peter that Jesus is the Messiah, from that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering. “While the paradoxical statement that finding one’s life comes only in losing it may have the ring of popular proverb, it has a special application in the mouth of Jesus. Discipleship requires losing one’s life ‘for my sake,’ for the sake of God as revealed in Jesus. This is not a call to lose oneself in a selfless cause—as noble as that idea may be. It is a specific demand placed upon those who would be the followers of Jesus. They must be willing to surrender their own self-centered ambitions, goals, and lifestyles for the way demonstrated by Jesus.”
(Mitchell G. Reddish, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4, p. 25)