Matthew 16:13-20

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

The sequence of the episodes in this story begins with the episodes about "who do people say" and "who do you say." These two episodes have an a/b, a/b structure: question/disciples’ answer, question/Peter’s answer. The third episode is the blessing of Simon Peter. The conclusion of this part of the messianic discourse is that Jesus “sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” This sets up part two of the story to be continued next week.

This story is a major turning point in the Gospel of Matthew. It is the first time that it is explicitly stated what is thus far implicit. The "Son of Man" is a title used for Jesus that basically means a human being. It also has the connotations that come from the use of Son of Man in Daniel where it refers to a representative of humanity in the divine court (see Daniel 7:13).  Jesus has a multiple role: Son of Man and Messiah.

The messianic tradition is a tradition of military leaders and kings of Israel. They were “the anointed.” Matthew paints his picture of Jesus against the background of Saul and David as paradigmatic Messiahs. The realization that Jesus is the Messiah involves a major re-conception of what it means to be the Messiah. This should be reflected in the way you tell Simon Peter’s confession. Tell it as a dawning realization. 

People see Jesus in the stream of the prophetic tradition: Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist. It dawns on Simon that Jesus is part of the messianic tradition. The messianic tradition is a completely different tradition than the prophetic tradition. It is the tradition of the kings of Israel. Components of the messianic tradition are the defeat of Israel’s enemies and the establishment of the nation. Simon Peter’s recognition of Jesus as Messiah introduces a new concept of Jesus’ identity.

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