Some powerful wordplay
These passages are so filled with truth, some days it’s hard to know how to unpack it all. Today’s passage is a feast of truth and blessing.
Jesus’ words are full of word plays and humour today that we can easily miss when we read it in English.
Pharisees and Sadducees
The Pharisees are looking for a sign from heaven from Jesus to test him. Of course the heavens are the sky (as in ‘the heavens opened’ when it rains a lot) and heaven is the dwelling place of God. So Jesus mischievously gives them a weather saying and then tells them the real sign from heaven is the sign of Jonah. You’ll probably immediately realise that He is talking about the three days Jonah was in the big fish as a sign of Jesus resurrection in 3 days. The Pharisees and Sadducees wouldn’t have caught that immediately and will deny the resurrection after it happens anyway. The sign of Jonah is that Jonah preached repentance to the Gentiles, who received it willingly, and as a nationalistic Jew hated doing it. Jesus is pointing to Jonah being a type of himself – bringing repentance and forgiveness to the whole earth – Jew and Gentile who put their trust in Him.
Yeast of the Pharisees
Making dough is fun and watching a teaspoon of yeast weave its magic on a kilo of flour is incredible. It spreads and affects the whole dough in a matter of hours. Likewise the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees had spread throughout Israel in a bad way.
The Sadducees were “sad you see”, because they didn’t believe in resurrection, so there was no hope for the future, but they also represented the establishment who wanted to curry favour with the Romans. The Pharisees were more politically radical, but had slipped into ‘majoring on the minors’, the external markers of faith observance rather than the majors of love for God, justice, mercy and forgiveness.
Both are disastrous for living a life of faith.
Who do you say I am?
The disciples had gone north with Jesus to Caesarea, named after… Caesar! It was a place filled with pagan temples overlooked by a massive marble temple to the Emperor. Would the disciples see through all that and recognise who Jesus is?
Son of Man – it’s a phrase that was used for “I”, much like the Queen uses “One”, but more importantly it picks up on Daniel 7:13-14 allusions to the Son of Man.
Messiah – the Anointed One, the one who will come and fulfil all the Jewish hopes and promises.
Son of the Living God – Jesus is far more than another Elijah, Jeremiah or Isaiah. He is God and the fulfilment of 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2:7.
Only God can reveal that, only God can reveal God.
On this rock
Who or what is the rock? This is hotly contested. It’s the second wordplay of the passage, because Peter (Petros) sounds like Rock (Petra). Is Peter the rock, like the Catholics argue, which leads to the apostolic succession and “infallible” Popes. Or is the rock what Peter has just confessed? That the church will be built on the rock that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
If you have responded to the Gospel, turning from your sin and believing that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God who died and rose again for your sin, you are forgiven and are standing on the rock that is Jesus Christ. With that He gives you the keys of the kingdom to bring the blessings of the kingdom to those you come into contact with. Have a blessed day and be a blessing!