13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
It is very easy to read this passage and think mainly of all the apologetic angles involved defending the Papacy. Especially as this dovetails exactly with the first reading. So much commentary has been written on this both in defense of the Papacy and against it. The commentaries I read mostly concentrated on this aspect, and for good reason, as this is a very rich vein for this purpose.
From my non-scholarly view, I also see a resurgence in the scholarly work being done on this topic. I think of Erick Ybarra tome, “The Papacy: Revisiting the Debate Between Catholics and Orthodox.” The amazing work Suan Sunna has presented on this topic and its Old Testament foundations. Along with William Albrecht and Father Kappes book “The Complete Guide to the Papacy in the Holy Bible.” This is not an area subsisting on just long fleshed out apologetic answers.
It seems to me here that Jesus is engaging in a mode of teaching, both asking a question and using the location of Caesarea Philippi. A question that does not even demand their opinion, but what other people had said about him. It is often so much easier to repeat other people’s opinion instead of doing the hard-thinking involved in revealing your own. You can be much more speculative and not reveal your preference. We not only want to have the right answer, but the approved answer.
After drawing these opinions out of them, Jesus then asks the very specific, “But who do you say that I am?”
The apostles may have talked about how Jesus didn’t fit their expectations of the Messiah and what this meant. The usual impetuous Peter jumps in with a reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This seems so unlike Peter that he blurts something out and gets it right in one take.
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
I wonder what Peter’s reply would have been without this revelation to him? Yet, it truly becomes his answer as he assents to it. He is being praised here by Jesus for not only his reply, but his intellectual assent and being docile to the Holy Spirit. Yet, in a passage that comes after this Gospel passage, Peter reverts to his own understanding when he denies Jesus will suffer and be killed.
I can easily reflect on the number of times in reaction my first thoughts would be a hot take. Instead of being open to God’s revelation, I express less honest and charitable thoughts. It is so audacious to turn and rebuke Jesus for what he reveals as part of his plan. It seems less audacious when I do the same.
I also think of the transformation of Peter, which I think of as PPP1 and PPP2, that is Pre-Pentecost-Peter and Post-Pentecost Peter. There is such a palpable difference, although I am tempted to pun with a papabile difference. While there is a unique charism associated with the Papacy, we are all called to transformation in Christ.
- The Papacy: Revisiting the Debate Between Catholics and Orthodox – St. Paul Center
- The Complete Guide to the Papacy in the Holy Bible: Kappes, Christiaan, Albrecht, William: 9798367000207: Amazon.com: Books
- Jesus, Peter & the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy: Butler, Scott, Dahlgren, Norman, Hess, David: 9781882972548: Amazon.com: Books
- Intellectual Catholicism – YouTube – Suan Sonna