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Weekly Bible Reflection
Matthew's Communities of Justice


Sundays after Trinity (10)

Matthew 16. 13-20
: Who on earth are you?

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing together

What do you know about your given (Christian) name? - its origin? what it means? why you were given the name by your parents? Do you like or dislike it?

Share with each other your own thoughts and reflections on names and their importance.

Reflection on the text

Simon Peter is only now beginning to understand who Jesus is and the significance of his ministry. Prior to this we’ve heard nothing from him, but as they come into the region of Caesarea Philippi, something changes. Jesus challenges his followers and raises the question about his own identity.

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” To begin with Jesus is circumspect: “Who do people …?”, and the replies are those from the past, important individuals who helped to shape the people of Israel and God’s great plan of salvation.

But then Jesus is more direct turning his question straight at the disciples. “Who do you …?” Peter’s answer is not only a public statement, but a theological affirmation. “You are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God.”

Jesus is named and recognised for who he is. In this chapter Matthew marks a significant turning point in the mission of Jesus and, for the disciples and for us, it focuses our attention on a crucial shift in our understanding of the nature of God. Here is the revelation of God as one like ourselves, a God who shares life with us subject to human limitation.

Peter identifies Jesus and in return Jesus identifies Peter as the “rock” on which he will build his Church. This suggests a handing on of authority and responsibility to his disciples. They will be entrusted with his work and his character.

The telling question for us is do people see Jesus in the Christian community of which we are part?

Application: some questions for group discussion:
  • What answer do we give to the question Jesus asked the disciples? Who do we say that Jesus is? What is the difference between calling Jesus "the Messiah" and believing in him as "the Messiah"?

  • How does your belief in Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ affect the way you live week by week as you journey through the ups and downs of life? Consider this in terms of your community as well as individuals.

  • What are some of the inadequate and popular understandings of Jesus’ identity in society today? How might you address such distortions of the truth? Are there things that we should know and confess about Jesus that shouldn't be shared with the world? If so, what?

  • Given the many problems and issues facing our world, finding faith in a loving God can be difficult. In what ways does your confession of faith as a community enable you to stand firm in the face of evil and death?
Praying Together

Pray for those who, like Peter, are given great responsibility to carry on someone else’s work.

Pray for those whose gifts and personal qualities are recognised and valued in the places where they work, and for those who feel that they are never given the opportunity to offer what they can bring.

Pray for those who are still searching for meaning in their lives and who find commitment difficult.

More background information
  1. Naming and the meaning behind the name is very important in Scripture. Name changes are also important and there are many instances of re-naming in Scripture. Abram is renamed Abraham, Jacob is renamed Israel. In Hosea 1:6–8, Hosea’s daughter was named “Not-pitied” and his son “Not-my-people”, describing the state of the nation in God’s eyes. But in Hosea 2:1, 23 the names were changed to “My-people” and “She-was-pitied”, signs of God’s forgiveness and mercy towards the nation.

  2. In Jesus’ day people depended on others to provide them with a sense of their identity. If a person said they were ‘of Nazareth’ it would immediately enable the enquirer to assess that person’s standing in the community and how they should be regarded and treated (honoured). This is far from the modern notion of personal identity and self-awareness. It is interesting to consider in the light of this what people think of us as a church. Above all else, do they see something of Jesus in us – in the dynamic of our relationships?

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