Sometimes we approach the Gospel readings as a sitcom rather than a series. Today, Dr. Sri dives into the Gospel of Matthew to show us how the stories in the Gospel are not isolated events. Dr. Sri teaches us about four key moments in the Gospel of Matthew and explains the historical context behind these stories to grasp the larger story revealed in the life of Jesus.
Snippet from the Show
The stories we hear in the Gospel are not isolated events. If we truly understand the larger context of these stories, we will marvel at the grand love story God reveals in the life of Jesus.
If we truly want to get the most out of the Gospel readings at Mass, it is important for us to understand the larger context of the Gospel stories. Today, I dive into four key moments in the Gospel of Matthew. I explain how they connect and how they all point to Jesus building the kingdom of God in a very intentional way.
Passage- Matthew 16:16-23
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Key Moment #1 : Peter’s confession of faith.
In this scene, we see Peter clearly stating that Jesus is indeed the anointed King, the Messiah, the fulfillment of all prophecies, the one Israel has been waiting for. This is a turning point for the disciples because it is the first time Jesus’ identity as Messiah is explicitly stated.
Key Moment #2: Peter’s new name & Keys to the Kingdom
Peter’s name change
The change of Peter’s name to “rock” is incredibly significant because it represents a change in his mission. The significance of name changes can be traced back to the old testament, when God also intentionally gave leaders of Israel new names. For example, Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, which pointed to him becoming the father of a multitude of nations. Jacob’s name was also changed to Israel because he became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Another reason this is a powerful moment is because looking at the historical context, the word “rock” also refers to the foundation stone of the temple, the most famous rock in first century Judaism. When Jesus gives Peter his new name, he is making him the new foundation stone of the new temple-the Church.
Keys to the Kingdom
In light of first century Judaism, the keys to the kingdom was also a significant and symbolic concept. Isaiah chapter 22, reveals that in the old testament the keys to kingdom were given to the “Al-Habbayit” which was a prime minister or a steward, someone who was granted authority by the king to take care of the palace and the daily affairs of the kingdom, specially when the King was away. The “Al-Habbayit” would also wear a ring and a royal robe. So when Peter is handed the kings to the kingdom, he becomes the “Al-Habbayit” of the Church, someone who can take care of it as prime minister. Under Peter’s leadership, Jesus trusts that his kingdom will continue to flourish on earth even after he returns to the Father.
Key Moment #3: Not Telling Anyone Jesus is the Messiah
Jesus commands the disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah because he knew that if the news spread, he would be killed right away because he would be seen as a threat. Jesus wanted to continue some important work and training with his disciples before others found out he was the Messiah. Before his death, Jesus needed go to Jerusalem and finish his ministry there.
Key Moment #4: Jesus Announces His Passion
Jesus shocks his disciples when he tells them about his passion, death and resurrection. At this point, his disciples did not understand the type of kingdom Jesus came to build. They believed that Jesus’ kingdom was going to look like a worldly kingdom full of glory and political power. From this point on, Jesus begins to recalibrate what it means to be the Messiah in the disciples’ minds. He teaches them that his kingdom is about laying down his life and taking up the cross, and that they too will have to carry their crosses as his followers.
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- God with Us: Encountering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew
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Meet Your Host: Dr. Edward Sri
Dr. Sri is a theologian and the author of several best-selling books. He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. A founding leader of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), Dr. Sri currently serves as its vice president of formation. He appears regularly on EWTN and resides in Colorado with his wife, Elizabeth, and their eight children.
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