Updated: Mar 12
Matthew 16:13-20 When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 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.
These eight verses from the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew are most important to understand, in terms of today’s state of Christianity in the Western World. I challenge anyone who is a regular church goer to listen intently to any sermon preached on this Gospel selection that is relative to these verses (Proper 16, August 27, 2017 next up) and make notes of how little those words preached will relate to what I will now state. I further challenge anyone who truly believes he or she is Christian to inquire why today’s Church (all varieties, forms, and cliques) is not led by the Holy Spirit (it seems to love politics and displays of social justice more), having no agenda to teach the sheep how to be filled with that Spirit (the blind leading the blind towards some pit).
First, it is worthwhile to realize where Caesarea Philippi is, as the entrance into this “district” in chapter 16 makes it easy to see how Jesus “led [three disciples] up a high mountain” (Matthew 17:1b) that was relatively nearby. The highest mountain in modern Israel is Mount Hermon; and it was there that the “Transfiguration” took place.
This is good to know because this reading in chapter 16 ends with Jesus giving an order “not to tell anyone” about their conversation about Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of God. In the high mountain experience, Peter, James and John (of Zebedee) were likewise given the order, “Don’t tell anyone,” about what they had witnessed there. (Matthew 17:9b) These separate orders link the two events in time and proximity; but more importantly the instructions to not speak about Jesus, made to the first Christians (soon to be) then, are applicable to us today as well. We, as close disciples of Christ, are given the same orders to keep quiet on this topic.
When we read how Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is,” this should be understood as Jesus inquiring what the “scuttlebutt” was about him.
“Scuttlebutt” is defined as American slang for “rumor,” but it has an original nautical application, as denoting a cask (of water) with a hole cut into it, making it become a drinking (water) fountain on a ship. On a ship at sea, the water’s source was a long way away, so the need for water was met by water being stored in watertight barrels. Because “rumor” is defined as “A piece of unverified information of uncertain origin usually spread by word of mouth,” the symbolism of a “scuttlebutt” is that of water taken in by the mouth from a secondary source (of water). This makes one who is spreading a “rumor” become like the water that is consumed from a storage container. Just as people tend to gather around a water cooler and spread gossip over a cup of water, Jesus was asking the disciples what they had heard during their trips to the common wells.
When water is recognized as the primal element of life, representative of the emotions one experiences in life, like water changes states (solid, liquid, gas) so too do human emotions ebb and flow, with the soul needing uplifting feelings just as the body needs physical water. This means water from a cask or well represents a need to be told what to believe, when one’s own personal experiences have run dry of uplift. This makes the “scuttlebutt” act as a regular secondary source of emotional uplift, whereby religion without religious experience draws people to the water cooler of life meaning, to hear what experiences others have to share.
This understanding allows one to see why Jesus asked his disciples what the people were telling each other about him, and thus what were the people being told to believe about him, having no direct knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth themselves. In today’s versions of Christianity, many want to believe in Jesus Christ; but the vast majority – if required by God to answer truthfully, from the soul to the Father – believe in Jesus (and even God) solely because of the words spoken by others. Those who claim to be Christians, but truly are not, are no different than the Jews of Galilee and Judea – who believed they were chosen to be God’s priests and who stated a belief in the prophets who predicted a coming Messiah. The Jews claimed faith, but truly did not possess the faith they claimed.
When the disciples responded to Jesus’ question, saying, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” this variety says the rumor mill is filled with the water of guesswork. Certainly, John the Baptist, Elijah, and all of the prophets of Israel and Judah were holy men that the Jews were committed to believing in; still, all of the above were dead men of history (Elijah ascended without physical death). This is an unstated belief in reincarnation, such that the people were guessing that one of the old leaders must have possessed the body of Jesus of Nazareth, in some way that none of them understood, so none of them could confirm that belief. While expressing faith that they thought Jesus was a holy man, the common take on Jesus was that he, as a Nazarene, could never be more than like someone that all Jews expressed belief in, sight unseen. In that sense, Jesus of Nazareth was like “the people” but was one of them who somehow had the luxury of spending more time being a devout Jew, unlike the majority of them were capable of being.
When Jesus then asked the next question to his disciples, one has to begin to grasp how there was and will always be a division in the populations of believers. In the district of Caesarea Philippi, which was near the northernmost reaches of the original Kingdom of Israel, close to the boundary of ancient Naphtali and Assyria and where the beliefs of the Israelites clashed with those of pagan Gentiles, “the people” then represented a collection of scattered Israelites, migrant Jews, along with some Samaritans, Romans, Greeks, and a potpourri of others with differing religious traditions. While Jesus primarily meant those of Jewish faith, when he asked about what “the people say about the Son of Man,” it can be assumed that the rumor mill was a common drinking fountain where conversations could easily be overheard, expressed by people of all varieties. Because of this mixture, deep faith would have been weakened (diluted) because the business of life then caused many people of faith to dampen their beliefs in mixed company. In this way, we need to see how modern mixtures of “the people” is a reflection of how any one place in America (or the world) can become restrictive in how much one can act on one’s faith. this limit is because business needs do not want to drive off any beneficial casual relationships, lessening a commitment to religious faith over business desires. Most Christians in the U.S.A. today then classify as “the people,” rather than “the disciples” of Jesus.
Seeing that, Jesus then asked those who were his closest followers, those who had witnessed his life firsthand, what others talked about as conjecture. When we then read, “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”’ it should be seen as a question the disciples were unprepared to answer. Between verses 15 and 16 the reader of the Gospel should make a very pregnant pause appear, where the silence is deafening. Before the anticipated answer of significance, one should be able to hear the thoughts in the minds of the disciples, mostly saying, “Well, I thought Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, and the prophets too.” Keep in mind how, on the high mountain later, Peter, James and John (of Zebedee) would see Jesus standing with Moses and Elijah. This means they were all just like “the people,” but with the caveat being they worked for Jesus of Nazareth and saw some remarkable things that they could only whisper conjecture about. As such, Christians who sit in pews and cannot begin to explain passages from the Holy Bible fluently, for others to gain faith from, they are like “the people” and “the disciples,” although they attend to church needs regularly. We need to hear Jesus ask us, “Who do you say that I am?” Too often we will find our minds go blank when unprepared to respond.
Of course, because Christians have read and have heard read aloud the answer Peter gave: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” there are those among us who would repeat those words, as if they came from their own minds.
Sometimes it is best to give a truthful answer.
What we have to realize is that Peter did not bravely stand up as the vocal representative of the disciples union (now generalized as priest, pastors, ministers, and any other title holders, bestowed by a school of religious thought) and give that answer. We know that because Jesus explained that Peter did not speak his brain’s ideas. He spoke what “the Father in heaven” said through Peter’s mouth. Without it being written, we should assume that Peter was as astonished as the disciples next to him, when those words came out in an uncontrollable blurt.
We next need to realize that Jesus stated Peter’s real name, when he said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!” His given name was Simon, but Jesus had earlier given Simon the nickname of Petros, which is the Greek word meaning “Rock.” We only see that translated as “Peter.” This means that when Jesus said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” Jesus actually said “Petros” and “petra” in those statements. That bears the meaning, “You are Rock (capitalization acts as a statement of importance, more than personification), and on this rock I will build my church.” As such, Jesus did not prophesy the coming of the basilica in Rome that would become known as St. Peter’s, because the church of which Jesus foretold would have nothing to do with physical stones. Jesus is the cornerstone of his Church, not Simon Peter.
Simon son of Jonah had the voice of God speak through him, making one of “flesh and blood” allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through it. Thus, the Holy Spirit would become the only cornerstone upon which the church of true Christians will be built. That little “rock” – that nugget of truth uttered by Simon son of Jonah – represented the first example of the vast multitude of Saints that would come later (with Simon Peter and the other ten disciples becoming true Saints on the Day of Pentecost, not long after this experience they witnessed firsthand).
When Jesus then said, “The gates of Hades will not prevail against [this church of solid spiritual stone],” he meant he foresaw a Church that would not suffer the downfall seen in the destruction of Israel and Judah, along with their temples of physical stones. This prophecy should be seen in this light of truth, where a Church that can stand strong against all the temptations to accept evil as good and bow down to the influence of Satan, is also a prophecy that lesser churches (those buildings erected of stone, which do nothing to teach the children how to be filled with the Holy Spirit) will collapse likewise. If you see a priest wearing the regalia of a rainbow colored stole (symbolic statements without words), while avoiding all mention of a church struggling to control the minds of its flock that resists acceptance of evil as good, you are witnessing a church at “the gates of Hades.”
When Jesus then said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” it is easy to see how the “I” pronoun use worked with Jesus personally spreading the Holy Spirit to his disciples; but the “I” word struggles to apply now, roughly 2,000 years later. Modern Christians are no different than the Israelites who went begging Samuel to go tell God they wanted a king, to be like other nations. Christians today do not want the responsibility of talking to God directly, because they know that is like a child always going to his or her father and constantly being told, “No.” We do not want to hear Jesus tell us to be Christian, because there is so much less responsibility involved when mom overrides dad and gives us what we want, letting us play rather than work. When Jesus said, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” he meant “He” will be the voice inside our heads telling us how to truly be Christian. Someone on a stage, wearing a costume, can never be that voice – as they are only representative of the water from a scuttlebutt.
The symbolism of a broken wafer?
This voice that will come to the true Christian, via the Mind of Christ, then makes sense of Jesus’ next statements. His saying, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven,” means everything done by a Saint on earth will be a direct reflection of a command from the throne of God. The Greek words “dēsēs” and “lysēs” are spoken in the conditional form, as “you might bind” and “you might loose,” making them a statement of what may be in their futures, if they act accordingly (keep in mind Judas Iscariot was still a disciple in the mix). This means the aspect of “binding,” which can equally mean whatever one “would be compelled to do,” will be due to following the “keys given” by Jesus Christ. Further, the aspect of “loosening,” which can equally mean whatever one “may be led to let go of” (“release” or “set oneself free of”), will also be due to the condition of following other “keys given” from the Holy Spirit. It means the “keys to heaven” are relative to how well one will not be doing those deeds that bind and loose one away from heaven, due to hearts and brains trying to find eternal pleasures in mortal bodies devoted to life on earth.
To have a firm grasp on this message, which equally applied then to the disciples with Jesus in the district of Caesarea Philippi, as it applies to “the people” of today, can then allow one to realize why Jesus “sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” It is the same basic reason why Jesus said to three disciples, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The orders depend on one’s physical body being prepared in advance to become the church of the risen Lord. Do not talk about who the Messiah is or what visions God has for his beloved Son, before you have become Jesus Christ reborn.
If you go around telling people who Jesus is, then the people will believe in you (or disbelieve you), based on how well your actions match your professed faith in Jesus as a holy leader. If you go around telling the people how you saw Jesus glow like a ghost, along with Moses and Elijah, then the people will believe (or disbelieve) that you saw Jesus and Spirits in an unearthly realm, making the people you tell look to the sky or some distant place (anywhere other than you and certainly not within their hearts) as to where Jesus Christ might be. That kind of scuttlebutt drives people’s eyes and ears (hearts and brains) away from deep faith … that they too can become one with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Deep faith can only come from personal ownership of true faith. Deep faith does not come from pouring a cup of water (or a sip of blessed wine) from the scuttlebutt of Communion, at a rail in a church. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well how he was living water that never needed to be replenished, not gained by drawing water from a hole in the earth, carried in a bucket on a rope. Each person has to go to that well offering eternal water (emotional devotion) personally and personally experience Jesus, so that the individual might become Jesus reborn, as a Saint. That is being filled with the Holy Spirit.
You do not then go around telling the people who Jesus is (or was) because you are Jesus! You bind and you loose on earth as heaven directs you, so others will have a direct encounter with holiness, without any words of explanation required. The people meet Jesus firsthand, in a Saint, rather than just hearing about a holy man through the rumor mill. A Saint can then spread the Gospel in the same way that Jesus went about in his physical ministry.
This message is one that could be repeated every Sunday in every church on earth, based on every different selected reading from each of the Gospel books. It is a message that could be preached 24/7/365.25 AND never get old. This message is not unique; but it will be weakened over time, eventually lost completely … at the end of time as we record it. Today, we are witnesses to churches, temples, and mosques that all stand at the gates of Hades, because people have been spreading rumors that are half-truths and innuendos, rather than the truth told by Saints, for centuries now. Falsehoods and white lies hint at devotion to God or gods, when wolves in lamb’s clothing rise to influence a flock. By their words of a Messiah and the glow of heaven, without ever truly knowing that personally, means “the people” were, are, and will be listening to the voices of mere human men and women. They tell all ears that perk up to go to a physical (symbolic) trough and drink, in order to find Salvation. They speak words condoning irresponsibility, rather than words that encourage the people to seek God’s Holy Spirit directly.
Matthew ended his Gospel by telling of the Great Commission that was given by the resurrected Jesus. Matthew recalled Jesus saying, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) The “baptism” spoken of is not by words, rituals, or relics. It comes by spreading faith in God, deeply felt – baptism by Christ, via the Holy Spirit. To be “in the name of” means to take on the holy ancestry of God’s Son by being reborn of God, as Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is no longer someone to talk about, as Jesus will then be within you, through your sacrifice of self ego. A Saint “teaches the people to obey” the voice of God, just as you have obeyed “everything Jesus has commanded you.” You become as righteous as Jesus of Nazareth because you act as God commands … willingly and lovingly.
The “key to heaven” then is to realize an “age” is roughly 2,300 years (give or take a century). The Age of Pisces (roughly 100 BC – 2100 AD) was a period of time when human beings could sacrifice themselves to the LORD, as an age of belief through deep faith. However, the Age of Aquarius is upon us and it symbolizes when human beings will turn to devises and brain powers as their temples of worship. We are nearing the “very end of the age” that Jesus prophesied. Now is the time to seek a personal relationship with God and Christ, and make your daily acts stop being lip-service around the water cooler. Your religion must become your true way of life; and that does not come easily. You speak very little then, as your work never ceases.
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