“But you,” he said, “who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) This is a question for us all, for on it depends how we are to behave. The ‘rich young man’ who ‘ran up, knelt before Jesus and put this question, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17), answered this question put to us this morning by calling him: “Good Master.” Implicit in this is that he is willing to be guided in how to live by Jesus, the Master. This ‘young man’ could not or would not listen to Jesus’ suggestion: “Go sell what you have and give to the poor … and then come follow me.” (Mark 10:21) We are told: ‘His face fell at these words and he went away sad.’ (Mark 10:22) In walking away he showed that his answer to Jesus’ question was mere words, just flattery. Simon Peter answered Jesus’ question, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Simon Peter is one of those who did leave everything to follow Jesus. (Mark 10:28) Peter arrived at the happiness (Matthew 16:17) denied the ‘rich young man’ only after he left everything to be with Jesus, and which was when he received the name, Cephas — meaning Rock. (John 1:38-39, 41-42) In coming to know that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ Jesus says to him: “Simon, son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17. C.f.: John 15:26; 16:13) Peter is blessed; he has come to know the Truth. (John 14:6) In some senses, in knowing the Truth he no longer has the option of walking away. “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Peter can now only do what Jesus tells him, for to act against what he knows to be True would be stupidity; he has come to know Jesus as the Way he should go. (John 14:6) “Come follow me,” says Jesus.
Peter has come to know who Jesus is, and to this revelation Jesus says, “So now I say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.” (Matthew 16:18) Peter is ‘the sensible man who has built his house on rock’ (Matthew 7:24), the rock of Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:4. C.f.: 1 Peter 2:6; 2 John 2:19) We, too, are all called to come to know the Truth about Jesus, and to likewise build our house on it. “Simon, Simon,” says Jesus to Peter. “Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) It will be as Jesus put it: “Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall; it was founded on rock.” (Matthew 7:25) The Truth we come to know in Jesus will come under attack. Or, as Jesus put it in making it clear about himself: ‘he is destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously … and be put to death.’ (Matthew 16:21) The Truth we come know will be seriously challenged.
But Jesus assures us: “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) That is, this Jesus, the Truth we have come to know, is unable to be held and put down/stamped out even in Death (C.f.: Acts 5:35-39); this, too, we must come to know to arrive at a sure conviction about him (C.f.: Romans 5:1-5), for at some point this will be all we have to stand on. As the Letter to the Hebrews has it: ‘Christ was faithful as a son, and as Master in the house. And we are his house, if we hold fast to the confidence and the boast of our hope, firm until the end.’ (Hebrews 3:6) Through testing we come to know how firm this Rock is on which we we have built our house. (C.f.: Isaiah 1:25) And, secure in the knowledge that our house stands firm, it is only then that we are in a position to help others in their time of trial — we are to be the hand held out in the storm that threatens to overwhelm (Mt 14:30-31); our quiet confidence will help nerve the arm of another who is not so sure; we are to be a rock for one another, as Jesus is the Rock for us. The commission given to Peter is given to us all: Build my Church. The houses we build turn out to be but rooms in a bigger mansion (John 14:2), for we all build on the same Rock; it is Christ’s house we build. In times of trial, we are called to strengthen one another (Luke 22:32), to pull together to keep the house upright, so that, together in Christ’s house/his Church, built on Christ our Rock, we can and will stand firm. We have Christ’s promise on this.