Last week, I concluded my reflection on John 21:1-19 discussing the need to collaborate in evangelisation and in saving our souls. Today’s post focuses on the episode of Matt 16: 13-20 as part of the discussion on authority and different views.
In the episode, Jesus asked his disciples whom people said he was. The disciples responded: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matt 16:14). When Jesus now asked the disciples for their own view, Peter responded that Jesus was the Christ. There are some points to consider.
First, how did the disciples pick this information since they were with Jesus almost all the time? One recalls that when Jesus was preaching or performing a miracle, the disciples assisted the people or were close to them. Therefore, they would have easily heard comments made about Jesus. A vivid example is the feeding of the five thousand. As the disciples distributed the fish and bread to the people, they would have deciphered how the people perceived Jesus through their discussions or comments they heard while walking through their midst.
Second, since Jesus knew he was the Son of God, why did he ask his disciples whom people said he was? What purpose would that serve? Although the transfiguration had not yet happened (Matt 17), the disciples had seen a lot of miracles done by Christ and listened to the discussions about Jesus’ divinity that accompanied these miracles. Jesus’ question to the disciples was part of his teaching method (pedagogy)—identify the existing idea before teaching the new one. Jesus used this method extensively in the sermon on the mount. For instance, Matt 5:38-39 reads: “You have heard that it was said: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”.
However, Jesus’ question goes beyond his teaching skills. Unlike the sermon on the mount where he simply referred to current teachings before introducing his own, Jesus wanted an answer from his disciples. This clarification was necessary because a prophet is a servant of God and not God himself, as in the case of Jesus. Moreover, a prophet’s blood would not have been an effective sacrifice for sin so much so that it would be done once and for all (Heb 10:5-10). Furthermore, Jesus wanted them to say what they heard about him to teach them a lesson on leadership. Of course, there were many things said about Jesus; however, Jesus only asked about his primary duty—salvation ministry. Here lies the theme of today.
As Church leaders, do we ask for feedback on the policies we introduce or do we assume they are always perfect? Do we ask our council members about how our policies play out? Do we realise that like the disciples, they pick a lot of information about us among the parishioners? Do we know that they hear the grumblings made against us during mass, particularly at homilies, collections, and announcements? Sometimes, too, people confront them directly, since they do not want to engage us directly.
Let us ask so that we can properly evaluate our strategy for an effective pastoral administration and the salvation of our souls. If Jesus was God and yet asked, what about us mere mortals? Of course, when we ask, we should not always expect a positive response. The people downgraded Jesus in their comments from God to a mere prophet, and the disciples informed Jesus as they heard it—honest feedback.
Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾