The Jesse Tree window in Llanrhaeadr traces the genealogy of Jesus right back to Jesse. Genealogy was very important to the people of Israel. At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ line is traced back as far as David, thus fulfilling one of the Old Testament Prophecies concerning the Messiah. Jesus ‘born of David’s line’ as we sing in the Christmas Carol.
When Jesus asks the question ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ Jesus is not about his own personal search for identity, he knows who he is and where he comes from and he knows where he is going. He received the expected answers, ‘Some say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets,’ but he wants them to answer for themselves. Jesus asks them directly ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter replies ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’
Peter suddenly realises that Jesus is the one they have been waiting for, the Messiah. This is the answer Jesus is looking for, an answer from the heart. For Peter the realisation of who Jesus really is, is something that has grown over time, it has taken a while to register but finally, Peter sees the light and Jesus is delighted. And Jesus gives him a new name, he is no longer to be called Simon, but Peter, meaning rock and he will be the rock on which Jesus builds his Church. This is the first mention of what is to follow, that there will be an expectation on the disciples to continue Jesus’ ministry, to form a community and carry on his work.
Yet what an unlikely choice, Simon Peter who continually says and does the wrong thing, Peter who is uneducated, Peter who in a very short space of time would deny Jesus 3 times, Peter would be the rock on which Jesus would build his church? But somehow Jesus knows that Peter is the man for the job. I wonder how Peter felt, did he think who me? Or was it so far fetched that he simply dismissed it. Peter was a fisherman, he would have known plenty about tides and seasons, about boats and nets, but not about building a Church. But the sort of Church Jesus has in mind is not a building but a community, a community of believers, a Church built on people.
This is the important lesson we have learnt during lockdown. How to be Church, not in a building, but Church as a community of people who believe in Christ. And Jesus asks the same question of us today ‘who do you say I am?’ We need to think about our answer and then respond. Peter was given a new name and a new purpose. Our names may not change but Jesus has a role for us, a role which will hold both challenges and blessings.
With Every Blessing…Val