There is good news and bad news: after a lot of prayer and holding on to hope, I have finally found full time work! I will be teaching Middle School Religion at a parish school in Detroit! I am really excited to get started. But, being that the school year is rapidly approaching and I have a ton of new things on my plate, I need to take a little hiatus from writing new material for the blog. So, I will be posting some of my older material to save some time!
I wrote this reflection in the summer of 2017, three years ago when we were in this cycle of readings. This sort of reflecting on the Gospels—especially the section I have speculating on the relationship between Matthew and Mark—is my bread and butter. I am very likely going to be dedicating my Master’s Thesis to this question—working to show that, among the other reasons he wrote, Matthew wrote his Gospel in part to help defend the authority of Peter—the visible head of the Church who was leading them (along with Paul) to proclaim the Gospel among the Gentiles. There are many other things I have learned in grad school since writing this (if I were to rewrite it, I would especially mention that this narrative appears in Matthew’s version of Mark’s ἄρτους—artous, “Bread” section [where the idea of bread—the leaven of the Pharisees, the bread from the Master’s Table, the multiplication of the “breads,” etc—appears over and over again]), and I am becoming much more familiar with Greek, but I would say this Commentary holds up.
Recently I had a conversation with a non-Catholic relative about the Gospel passage we are reading today in the Latin Church. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this Rock, I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 RSV) She insisted that the Rock Jesus refers to here was not Peter. She brought up a popular Protestant apologetic argument—the idea that the words Jesus used Petros (Peter) and Petra (Rock) are referring to two different things (a tiny rock vs. a foundation stone). Knowing that neither of us actually know Greek super well, I asked her, “Ok, leaving aside this verse for just a moment, what does the rest of the passage mean? Why is Jesus saying things to Peter like, ‘I will give to you [singular] the keys to the kingdom of heaven’? Why is Jesus saying anything special about Peter at all if this Rock pun He uses isn’t actually about Peter?” Essentially, in the context of both the conversation and the accounts surrounding it in the Gospel, what exactly is Jesus saying/doing in this story? She repeated that it was not about Peter, and said that the things Jesus says to him applied to all believers in some way. It was late, so we did not flesh out this view further—we ended the night simply stating what we believed and agreeing to disagree.
But the question still remains: how would someone in the First Century reading Matthew’s Gospel read this exchange, both the conversation on its own and in the context of the story? Can we find an interpretation of Jesus’ words, “You are Peter,” which actually makes sense in the rest of the narrative? As we have been going over this section of Matthew’s Gospel the past few weeks at Mass, I figured it would be a good time to explore that question.
In order to understand chapter 16, we first need to know what is happening in chapter 15. It opens with a discussion with the Pharisees:
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.’ But you say, ‘If any one tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”he need not honor his father.’ So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”Matthew 15:1-9
The tradition the Pharisees are referring to is derived from Temple worship. Before the priests offered a sacrifice, they would ceremonially wash their hands. Over time, lay Israelites would do something similar—in imitation of the ritual washing before a sacrifice you would wash before a meal—that is, you would offer the meal as a sort of sacrifice. Beautiful little tradition. But people began to forget about why the tradition was there—it came to be seen as a scrupulous action people had to perform without any connection to the original reason for doing it. Jesus also points out that they do something similar in connection to the Fourth Commandment (honor your parents)—a beautiful tradition, offering up part of your possessions to God as qurban (a sacrifice) is used in a way that skirts around the commandment to honor your parents. Listen to what He accuses them of: “in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” What He condemns is not tradition or teachings—He accuses them of corrupting the doctrine, the teaching, the Tradition—substituting the revealed sacred Tradition handed down with “small-t” traditions. As He goes on, He brings up the eating of clean and unclean foods, that this was meant to point to interior purity—it is not what a man eats that defiles him, it is his unholy/fallen desires. He says that when people elevated small-t traditions to the level of Divinely Revealed Teaching/Tradition/Doctrines, they missed the point. The small-t traditions are there to point to the Tradition, to point to the true following of the Law—not to become laws themselves.
Then comes the account we read last week:
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.vs. 21-28
He withdraws to Tyre and Sidon, places where no Jews lived. (Odd place to be if He meant, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”) The woman who calls to Him asks for mercy, and calls Him “the Lord, the Son of David.” She calls on Him as the Messiah, the Son of David, of Whom it was said, “He shall build a House for My Name, and I will establish the Throne of His Kingdom for ever.” (2 Samuel 7:13) The disciples ask Him to send her away, and He says He was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel. She persists, and He says it is not right to give the children’s bread to dogs. When she says that dogs get crumbs from the Master’s Table, He rewards her faith. This is not an example of Jesus being wishy washy, not an example of Him learning that racism is a sin, not an example of God Incarnate being changeable—He is giving the responses a typical Jew (or even more directly, His disciples) were thinking. “The Messiah is only for the Jewish people! We cannot give the things directed toward the Chosen People to those who are not!” But Jesus is showing how that thought is wrong. He is (as we see in 16) the Messiah, the foretold King of the House of David, but this would not be a mere reestablishment of the Israelite kingdom from David’s time. Speaking of Abraham, Yeshua ben Sira wrote, “Therefore the Lord assured him by an oath that the nations would be blessed through his posterity; that He would multiply him like the dust of the earth, and exalt his posterity like the stars, and cause them to inherit from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Sirach 44:21) Abraham’s descendants, the tribes of Israel would bless all nations. The Chosen People were chosen to be a blessing to all other nations. And the Messiah, the Posterity of Abraham, the Son of David would be the One to bring this about. As David prophesied, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before Him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28) And Isaiah, “the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…these I will bring to My holy mountain [the Temple], and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My House shall be called a House of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, Who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather yet others to Him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:6-8) Jesus shows His disciples that His Kingdom is not for Israel alone, but for all people in His exchange with the Canaanite woman.
Jesus then goes to the Sea of Galilee. “And great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:30-31) Isaiah spoke of the days of the Messiah: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5) When the crowd was with Him for three days, He again multiplies the loaves and fishes, feeding over 4,000 people.
Here we begin chapter 16. After all of the signs Jesus performed, all pointing to Who He is, the Pharisees come and ask for a sign. He reprimands them. “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky [to figure out the weather], but you cannot interpret the signs of the times [all of the works I already performed]. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:3-4) Even to those who would not see the signs He had offered for what they were, Jesus offers one more sign—the Sign of Jonah. He had mentioned it earlier in Matthew. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (12:40-41) What is the Sign of Jonah? Jonah was swallowed by the whale for three days and nights. In his prayer from inside the whale, “I called to the Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol [hades, hell, the place of the dead] I cried, and Thou didst hear my voice…I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet Thou didst bring up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God.” (Jonah 2:6) According to his description, he “died” and went to the place of the dead. On the third day, the Lord brought up his life from the pit, and he was spat out upon the land. And then, he went to Nineveh to preach. The capitol of the Gentile Assyrian Empire repented in sackcloth and ashes at the preaching of Jonah. So, Jonah “died,” rose again three days later, and preached to the Gentiles. And now, something, Someone greater than Jonah is here. The last Sign He gives to this generation, who did not recognize the other signs He offered that He was the Messiah, is His Death, Resurrection, and founding of a Kingdom which would encompass all nations.
He leaves there, gets into the boat of with the disciples, and tells them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. The disciples misinterpret, and assume He is speaking about bread. He asks how they could be of such little faith—as He had already fed 5,000 and 4,000 miraculously. Matthew notes that, “they [then] understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:12) Again, not to beware of Tradition/Teaching/Doctrine in general, but to avoid that of the Pharisees and Sadducees, doubting and not believing in the signs He had shown. But one may question, whose Tradition/Teaching/Doctrine are we to follow, if not the Pharisees’?
Then Jesus and the disciples arrive at Caesarea Philippi. On arriving, He asks them, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” (v. 13) The Pharisees and Sadducees did not want to listen to the signs that Jesus had given—the signs pointing to His Messianic Identity; so He asks His disciples Who the common people thought He was. He goes from the leaders of the faith, of the Assembly of Israel, to the people in general. But the disciples report the disagreement among the people: “Some say John the Baptist [who had just been martyred], others say Elijah [whom was prophesied to return before the Messiah, cf. Malachi 4, Sirach 48:9-11], and others Jeremiah [who had prophesied about the New Covenant and hidden the Ark of the Covenant until God would “gather His people together again,” cf. Jeremiah 31:31-40, 2 Maccabees 2:7-8] or one of the prophets. [especially the New Prophet like himself prophesied by Moses, cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-22].” (v. 14) The people thought many different things about Jesus—some of them nearly correct (like how He was the New Moses, or how He would be the establishment of a New Covenant), but then others really off base (like that He was Elijah or John the Baptist reincarnated.)
But then He asks them, “But who do you [plural] say that I am?” (v. 15) He puts them all on the spot. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not believe in His signs, the people believed many and contradictory things—Who did they say Jesus was? Simon Peter, who was always listed first in every list of the Apostles in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:12-14), replied, speaking for the other Twelve: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (v. 16) You are the Christ, You are the Messiah, You are the King promised to sit on the Throne of David, You are Abraham’s Posterity, You are the Light of the Nations, the One Who will gather all men to Yourself. And not only that, but You are the Very Son of the Living God, God Incarnate, the God of the Burning Bush made flesh.
Before we continue, a brief scholarly side note:
The Apostle Matthew, one of the Twelve there, is the author of this Gospel. It, along with Mark and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they record many of the same events with very similar language. While there is an ancient tradition that Matthew may have written a simple collection of the sayings of Jesus in Aramaic before the other Gospels, it is generally thought that the first of these Gospels to be written in Greek was that of Mark. Mark is the simplest and shortest of the Gospels. Both Matthew and Luke seem to have based their texts on Mark. It is more understandable for Luke (who was not an eyewitness) to base his Gospel on the structure of Mark, but why would Matthew, an Apostle who was there base his account of the events on the account of someone else? What needs to be remembered is who the author of that Gospel was: John Mark was the secretary of Peter. He travelled with Peter on his missionary journeys, helping him with his knowledge of Greek and Latin. According to the ancient tradition of the Fathers, Mark compiled his Gospel by taking notes from Peter’s sermons. The reason Matthew and Luke followed Mark’s account so closely (even though one was and the other had access to living eyewitnesses) was because of the authority of Mark’s source—as we will see in the rest of the conversation between Jesus and the Apostles, Peter was not seen as “just another eyewitness.”
I bring up this point about Matthew being a Synoptic Gospel because it is at this point in the story where Matthew diverges from Mark’s (and Luke’s) account. After Peter makes his declaration about Jesus, in Mark and Luke they finish the conversation. But Matthew adds this. Whatever comes next, Matthew (and the Holy Spirit Who inspired him) wanted to make sure it got special attention. Peter makes his declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven.’” (v. 17) The name Jesus calls Peter in Aramaic, Shimon bar-Yona, literally means Simon the son of Jonah. This is of course odd, because elsewhere in this Gospel (and the rest of the New Testament), Simon Peter is not the son of Jonah, but the son of John (Yohanan). While one may potentially make the argument that this is simply a copyist error—that the original text used to say John, and that someone made a typo that was copied onto every subsequent copy of Matthew—this seems extremely unlikely (1. There are no existing copies of the text that use John instead, 2. The Holy Spirit did inspire the text.) More likely, Jesus intentionally calls Simon “the son of Jonah.” Why? There seem to be two reasons. Jesus could be referring back to the exchange with the Pharisees and Sadducees at the beginning of the chapter, that the only sign they will receive is the Sign of Jonah (His Death, Resurrection, and founding the Kingdom); and that Peter is in some way His son and has a particular role in this ministry of Jesus. The other reason could be that the Hebrew word Yonah means “dove,” a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In this case, Peter is particularly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, unlike the crowds or the authorities in the Jewish faith, Simon does not speak from his normal human understanding, but is acting with authority as the son of Jonah, of Christ’s Death and Resurrection and sending of the Spirit, and speaking something not revealed by mere flesh and blood, but by the Heavenly Father.
So Jesus continues: “And I tell you, you are Peter [Petros], and on this Rock [Petra] I will build My Church [ekklesia, called out ones, assembly], and the powers of death [more literally, the gates of hades] shall not prevail against it.” (v. 18) The difference in the two words for Rock are insignificant for three reasons: 1. The language Jesus was speaking was very likely not Greek. He was likely speaking Aramaic (especially seeing as how Matthew preserves the Aramaic spelling of “son of Jonah”), and in Aramaic, the phrase would run like this: “You are Kepha, and on this Kepha I will build My Church.” 2. The distinction between “little rock” petros and “big rock” petra did actually exist at one point in Greek. If Matthew had been writing in Athens from the 500s-300s B.C., there was a minor distinction between the definitions of petros and petra in Attic Greek poetry. But in Koine Greek (the Greek of the New Testament), that subtle distinction was gone. The only real difference between the terms was… 3. Petros was masculine and Petra was feminine. If Matthew had used exactly the same word for Peter and Rock like it was in Aramaic, it would sound a bit like this: “You are Rockette, and on this Rockette I will build My Church.” As Peter was a man, he instead essentially wrote, “You are Rocky, and on this Rockette I will build My Church.” (And if you are not fully convinced that Peter is the Rock Jesus is talking about here, He will use another rock pun in reference to him in a few verses.)
But why does He say this? In Jewish tradition, the Temple, and specifically the Holy of Holies, was built upon a rock on top of Mount Zion. Years after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Muslims took over the Temple Mount and built a mosque on top of the same site: the Dome of the Rock. (You can read more about this Rock and some of the other references to Hebrew tradition in this passage in more detail with this work by Brant Pitre.) The very center of Jewish life was the Temple—it was the only proper place for the true worship of God (sacrifice) was accepted. It was the center of everything for the Jewish assembly (ekklesia)—the source and summit of everything they did was in offered in the Temple. One of the things that Jesus claimed (and one of the things that the Messiah was prophesied to do) was that He would take down the Temple and build up a New One. When He was asked for a sign to back up His cleaning out the moneychangers in John’s Gospel, He says, “‘Destroy This Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But He spoke of the Temple of His Body.” (John 2:19-21) And later in the same Gospel, He tells a Samaritan woman, “believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain [Mount Gerizim, the site of the Samaritan Temple] nor in Jerusalem [Mount Zion] will you worship the Father…But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him.” (4:21,23) As the Messiah Jesus claims to be, He says that He will establish a New Temple (cf. Ezekiel 40-48), and this New Temple is His Body. He makes the claim that proper worship, the true sacrifice we can offer to the Father can only happen in Him—that true worship enters one into the Life of the Trinity: worshipping the Father in the Holy Spirit and in the Son, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And so, this true worship, the true sacrifice offered in the Temple of His Body and Blood, will also be the center of His new Ekklesia, the New Assembly, His Church—that the sacrifice of His Body and Blood is the source and summit of the life of His Kingdom. So when He says that “You are Peter, and on this Rock I will build My Church,” He is saying that this New Temple, this right and proper worship of God will find itself built upon the Rock of His servant Peter. Just like the Patriarchs, Jesus, God Incarnate, renames Simon. Just as Abram was renamed Abraham because he was to be the Father of many nations, so too Simon was renamed Peter to signify his office within the Church.
“And the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.” Death will have no power over this assembly, this Church. Gathered together in true worship of the Father on the Rock of Peter, all the workings of sin, dysfunction, and death will have no power over the Kingdom of God. It is not a promise that they will be perfect, that the Church of Peter would be free from sin—but that, “I will build My Church,” I will continue to build My Church gathered around Peter, and that despite human sinfulness, despite people who fall away, the powers of hell will never have the last word over this Body.
He continues, “I will give you the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) The Kingdom of David was similar to many other contemporary kingdoms in the Middle East in many respects. It had a King at the head. It had several court officials who acted as advisors. Because polygamy was allowed, a King’s Mother would be the Queen, rather than having his wives fight over the position. She would sit on a throne next to the King, and it was often her role to hear the complaints and petitions of those outside of the court, and present them to him. Looking at the Books of Kings and Chronicles, over ¾ of the Kings of Judah and Israel are listed with their mothers. Along with the Queen Mother, there was also the position of Prime Minister/Steward. This man would be the leader of the people in the absence of the King (if he were to go off to war or meeting foreign rulers in other places). Isaiah describes the office of steward in a prophecy against a sinful steward Shebna during the reign of King Hezekiah (you may recognize it as our first reading today):
I will thrust you from your office, and you will be cast down from your station. In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.Isaiah 22:19-23, cf. 2 Kings 18
The Prime Minister was the one with the Keys of the House of David. He was vested with authority, and was bound to be “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” And this office of Prime Minister was like a throne of honor to his family. So when Jesus, Who from the beginning of His ministry preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17), Who claimed to be the Davidic King, the Messiah, said to Peter that He would give to Him the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, He is telling Peter that he will be His Prime Minister—He will have the authority of the King when He is away, and even be a father to the Church.
“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This is in reference to two things. It is similar to the power of the Prime Minister, “he shall open, and none shall shut.” His decisions, his actions are binding. But then the very words He uses, binding and loosing—these are terms that Jesus uses elsewhere to describe the way the Pharisees taught. “They bind heavy burdens hard to bear” (23:4), not speaking of literal things they would tie to people, but the teachings they would prescribe. (He also describes them of “key-ing people out of the Kingdom of heaven”, v. 13) In these lines He contrasts those who “sit on Moses’ seat [kathedra]” and those who will sit on Peter’s Kathedra. (cf. 23:1-3) Where they had been in the seat of teaching authority, Jesus calls His followers to follow a New Teaching Authority, one that was also intended to pass down through the ages. “Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” (16:20)
He then begins to much more explicitly tell His disciples that He must be crucified, die, and be raised. Peter takes Jesus aside and says, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” (v. 22) Jesus’ response is very important. “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle [skandalon, stumbling stone] to Me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (v. 23, NABRE) He rebukes Peter for rebuking Him. He calls Peter [the Rock] a stumbling stone. He says, essentially, you are not acting as the foundation stone of My Church, but a rock I can trip on. And why? You are not thinking as God does, but as men do. Unlike when you were revealed these things not by flesh and blood, but by My Father in Heaven, you are now thinking in flesh and blood ideas again—instead of using the teaching authority granted him by the Holy Spirit, he is relying on his own powers (very much like the crowds or the Pharisees from the beginning of the chapter.) He rebukes him with the name, Satan (the adversary), but notice what He tells him to do: Get behind Me. What are the very next words, after the rebuke? “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?’” (v. 16:24-26 RSV) I want you to stop being My adversary, Peter. I want you to get behind Me and carry your cross. Stop being a stumbling block, but live up to your calling as My Foundation Rock.
What is to happen as a result of self-denial for the sake of Jesus? “For the Son of Man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.” (vs. 27-28) As it was written in Daniel, “thrones were placed and One that was Ancient of Days took His seat; His raiment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came forth from before Him; a thousand thousands served Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened… and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:9-10,13-14) When Jesus uses this title, Son of Man, He is claiming to be this figure from the Book of Daniel. He was claiming to be the Person of the Divinity Who would be given all power and authority, Who would rule over every language and people, of Whose Kingdom there would be no end. He was claiming that at the end, He would stand in judgment over all that we had done. And lest we be deceived into believing the lie that He has not yet established His Kingdom, that He is waiting someday to rapture believers away and then found a Thousand Year reign on the earth, notice what He says—that there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming into His Kingdom. We do not believe that the Apostles are secretly alive hiding somewhere—we know that they have all gone on to their eternal reward. But no, when Jesus died and rose again, and called all the nations to Himself—we know that Jesus was not lying when He said the Kingdom of God is at hand. It has begun here and now—not yet in its fullness when He returns and raises the dead—yet we know that His Kingdom is here—and its name is the Catholic Church.
Indeed, it was reading Scripture like this, knowing its proper context and its cultural background, and getting more and more familiar with it each day, it was all that which drew me to become a Catholic. I am convinced that the best way to be a “Bible Believing Christian” is within the Body of Christ, His Catholic Church founded on Peter and his successors. I would take it so far as to say that if anyone could prove to me that the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be, if anyone could prove to me that what the Church teaches (both about itself and her other doctrines) was bunk, then I would personally have no reason for believing anything in the Bible—the identity of Jesus, His claims about the Church, and the Church’s claims about itself are so bound together in my mind that if one fell the whole thing would come tumbling down.
My really long convoluted two cents…