Mt 16: 13-20
We just heard the greatest question ever to be asked in the history of mankind. And it is a great question only because the ANSWER is great.
The question was: WHO is Jesus.
If the answer had been: A saintly man, like Francis of Assisi, or, a wise teacher, like Buddha;
Then, it would not be the greatest question.
But because the answer was: He is God –this man walking around is God,
Then, it was the greatest question ever asked and the greatest answer.
Now, generally, when someone claims to be God he gets locked up in a mental asylum. The Lord Jesus, however, was taken seriously. To understand why he was taken seriously we need to recall the series of events that was building up to this question, and to appreciate why everyone must have been asking this same question: WHO is he?
So what had been happening in the build up to this question?
He had taught so wisely that huge crowds came to Him in the wilderness;
He had fed 5000 with just 5 loaves and two fish;
He had walked on water and calmed the storm –WHO can do that?;
He was the one that people said of Him: “He has done all things well” (Mk 7:37)
He was the one that people said of Him: “He taught with authority” (Mt 7:29)
He was the one that the first time that soldiers were sent to arrest Him they returned empty handed saying merely: “No one has ever spoken like this man” (Jn 7:47)
More significantly, He claimed to do things that only God was allowed to do:
He claimed the authority to forgive sin (e.g. Lk 5:21)
He claimed the authority to change the Law of Moses (e.g. Mt 12:8).
WHO is he?
So Jesus claimed to be God, and, rather than being locked up in a mental asylum people took Him seriously. What must the force of His personality have been for that to hold?
To meet God-made-flesh must have been quite an experience!
It was St Peter who identified Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, the one who is both fully God and fully man.
But by coming to know Christ, Peter came to know much more.
Christ, as the God-man, both fully reveals God to us AND fully reveals perfect humanity to us, and this second thing is very important too. As the great Pope John Paul II put it, quoting the Second Vatican Council: Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself.
By knowing Christ, St Peter knew everything that every Pope in history would ever need to teach and preach, and that is why this proclamation was the basis for Jesus appointing him the Rock on which he built His Church.
By knowing Christ, perfectly God, he knew all mankind will ever be able to say of God;
By knowing Christ, perfectly human, he knew all mankind would ever need to be taught about what it means to be human: the whole moral life, from the immorality of cheating on your tax returns to sexual immorality; from the need to rest and enjoy wine at the feast at Cana to the need to suffer and sacrifice for others on the Cross.
By knowing Christ, the first Pope knew everything he as Pope needs to know and teach.
I’m not going to preach on infallibility today, I’ve given you that handout, but it is this text that explains why the Pope is infallible.
For ourselves, we each need to be certain we have understood the import of that question: “But you, you do you say I am?” If we have not recognised that He is both God and man, that He is the long awaited Messiah, the one all creation as yearning for, then we have failed to grasp the significance of the greatest question ever asked.