Friday, October 17, 2008

Defining Peter 1 - Caesarea of Philippi / Name Change

Growing up in the tradition of Sola Scriptura, I always wondered what was so fascinating about the Pope. Sure, he is a man of God (and I think that anyone who did a fair examination of his life would ultimately come to the same conclusion), however, why is he so important?

I remember my wife talking to me about how important he was. To me, he was just another man, no better than me. She told me that he was the leader of her Church. I told her that my pastor is the leader of my church, big deal? We both have leaders of the Church. However, there was definitely a stark difference between the leader of her Church and the leader of my church. When my Pastor was out in public, he was not followed by an army of officials and when my Pastor spoke, he would draw a crowd, but nothing like what the Pope draws. So I have to wonder, where did it all begin? Is there a reason why this man is so important? More importantly, what does the Bible say about all of this. I know, I know, I can't help it, I have been raised and trained Sola Scriptura for over 30 years. However, what I found in Scripture was very interesting.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
(Matt 16:13-19).

So, what in the world is going on here? To tell you the truth, there is a ton. There are literally books written explaining these passages of Scripture, and there is no way that I can ever do it justice. I listened to Steve Ray give a talk on this topic, and it was amazing. Steve Ray is one of the main reasons why I am joining the Catholic Church, and his talk on this was very pivotal in my conversion.

There are so many things to examine in this scripture. Let's get started:

Location :- Caesarea of Philippi.
History tells us that Caesarea of Philippi was not just some random place. There was something there. Something that Jesus had chosen as a setting in order to give Peter keys of the kingdom of heaven.

That something was a church to the pagan god Pan. Was this important? Was it an accident that Jesus was about to reveal something special to Peter regarding His Church with the backdrop of a pagan church of Pan?

Of course it was important. Jesus was about to institute His Church. The Real Church - not some pagan false god church, but the One True Church for the One True God. Imagine being there with Jesus and Peter, and Jesus says "and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.". I am sure that Jesus was implying something along the lines of, "this church behind us, that doesn't mean squat". I am going to build my Church. But I am getting ahead of myself...

What is in a name?
One of the great things about the Bible is that it is so consistent. From the Old Testament to the New. St. Augustine says it best (paraphrsing here)

The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New.

Something that is shown clearly that when God wants to do something special in the lives of His followers, he occasionally backs it up with a name change. He changed Abram's name (which means father departed) to Abraham (which means father of many )(Gen 17:5), Jacob's name (which means decietful)(Gen 37:26) to Israel (which means to prevail)(Gen. 32:28)

When Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter, he was doing something special. (I just learned that no one was named Peter in those days. It is an entirely made up name at that point).

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock...

This is the English translation of this verse, and it has caused some confusion. We know that Jesus would not have been speaking English. Instead, he would have spoken Aramaic. Therefore the verse would have been closer to:

And I tell you that you are Cephas, and on this Cephas...

Clearly saying that Jesus was going to build His Church on Peter. Of course, Jesus is the Head of the Church and always will be, but Peter is the Shephard of that Church here on Earth.

We see more evidence of this after Jesus' Resurrection:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.
(John 21:15-17).

Although there were many disciples present, when Jesus spoke these words, he was speaking to Peter specifically. We recognize the language. He was telling Peter to be the Good Shepherd on Earth. Peter was to be the leader of God's Church on Earth.

Let's not be confused. Jesus is the Head of the Church. The only reason why Peter has the authority that he has is because it was given to him by Jesus, using the metaphor of keys which would have been understood by the Jewish people at the time...but more on the keys in the next segment.

...stay tuned, more to come in Defining Peter 2

No comments: