When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Strange to think that just out of thin air Jesus puts this question to his followers. It suggests that some sort of conversation was going on; a background noise; a distraction - cetainly enough of a distraction for Jesus to decide to have it out.
The region of Caesarea Philippi was also known as Panias - the place of the pagan god Pan - and the city was pretty impressive built on top of a high escarpment.
It could be imagined that the disciples had never spent any time in this area; or knew it only by hearsay. It could be imaged that it was a sight to behold - even if they never set foot in it. Imagine a high city like this, abundant with life, dedicated to a god of nature often imagined as a shepherd and here they were with their own shepherd walking through the dust and heat of the day possibly searching out one of the fresh springs that the area was known for.
Maybe they were comparing their faith to the pagans - there has been a long history of envy regarding the elaborate temples and idols that the pagans worshipped, or perhaps they were criticising the lack of true faith. Perhaps, given their love of status they were discussing what they would do with the city if it became theirs - but then that was unlikely to happen - look at them - just a band of wanderers.
Perhaps they were just wondering what they were doing there.
Then the question - and they are thrown - their replies incredulous. They surely can't believe what they saying? Searching back in their memories for great leaders in faith - not able to acknowledge that here, now was someone unique; here was the one they had been waiting for.
Simon gets the nudge from the Holy Spirit; he may be wrong but he has already played the fool out of love for Jesus more than once. Love enables him to imagine more that the evidence allows; only just but enough.
Enough is more than enough as Jesus pours authority upon him - you see this city built on a great rock? It is nothing - nothing compared to you - because you have heard the
Father's voice in your heart.
Simon, whose name means 'listening', has heard and has believed. Now Simon Peter has taken the first step; has become the first stone, the foundation of believers - those who believe not because they see, not because they have been told to, not because it makes sense but because they love foolishly and undeniably.
This is the glimmer of faith that Jesus has been waiting for; Simon Peter has taken the leap, made the connection, entered into a relationship not only with his friend and brother but with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.
No wonder Jesus is delighted; now all he needs is more Peters.