29 June [Sts Peter and Paul]
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
The popular notion of Messiah in Jesus’ time was that of a political leader, someone who would organise to defeat the Romans, drive them out of the country, and go on to establish a world empire. Jesus didn't seem to fit this description, so the belief was that he was a prophet, a precursor of the Messiah. Yet he claimed at times that the Kingdom of God was already established (Mt 12:28), which is tantamount to saying that the Messiah had already come.
The Kingdom of God according to the popular notion would be bristling with arms, and bathed in the blood of Roman soldiers. The Kingdom according to Jesus belonged instead to the poor, the gentle, the merciful, the peacemakers (see the Beatitudes), to the childlike (Mt 18:1-5). Its King would not be a military general but a leader who would “banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem” (Zechariah 9:10).
The greatness of Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” was that he was breaking through beyond the popular belief to a realisation that Jesus, with his talk of mercy and compassion, was himself the Messiah. Something of Jesus' teaching was at last getting through.
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