During this special Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks, we are going to have a regular series of reflections published on our website which will prompt us to reflect on important passages of St Matthew’s Gospel, and learn more about them. We are very grateful to Dr Natalie Watson, a contemporary theologian and writer, for offering these reflections for our community.
Knowing who we are is important. There has even been a well-known television programme called Who Do You Think You Are?, encouraging people to investigate their ancestry and family history, and the connections that come to light are frequently rather astonishing. Yet, in our passage, Jesus approaches this question rather differently: he does not begin with ‘Who do you think you are?’ but asks ‘Who do you say I am?’ And this is the crucial, the life-changing question for Peter? There are a lot of rumours around: ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ But Jesus isn’t interested in rumours and speculations. ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Here Peter speaks not only for the disciples who are present at the time, but in confessing ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ he recognises Jesus for who he is, as the saviour, and he is then able to receive his own call as the disciple who will become a preeminent leader in the early Church and the one in whom God entrusts his authority: ‘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.’ In recognising who Jesus is and by confessing his name Peter is given a new identity. Here is the fulfilment of Jesus’s promise to him and his brother Andrew that henceforth they would fish for people. If we acknowledge who Jesus is and confess his name, we too are included in the calling of Peter and are given a new identity in belonging to his Church.
Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of God, help us to confess your name and to build your Church.