Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why did Jesus live?

Matt 16:18-21
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. 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." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

In Caesarea Philippi in the north, Jesus gives the keys of the Kingdom to Peter before He announces He is about to die and head south to Jerusalem.

Why did Jesus die? Many people could give you a good answer, but what would they answer if you asked them ‘Why did Jesus live?’ They may say He lived in order to die. He did, but not only to die.

When He was born, Herod sent the soldiers out to kill Jesus as a baby. So if Jesus came simply to die, it would be mission accomplished at ‘age one’. Well, you may say He had to be an adult before He died. He gave His first homily in Luke 4 and it went down so well that they wanted to throw Him off the cliff. So He could have died right then. But you may say He was in Nazareth and He has to die in Jerusalem. Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem and in John 8 we’re told they picked up stones ready to stone Him in the Temple and miraculously He escapes through the crowd. Jesus avoids death repeatedly, over and over again.

Why does Jesus get in a row boat at night to go to the other side of the lake? Why does He cut though grain fields in the middle of the day? Why not take the main road? Jesus is trying to be inconspicuous. He is always telling people ‘Don’t tell people I am the Christ’. He didn’t want anyone to know He is the King. If Jesus says He is the King, then Herod or Pilate would send soldiers to arrest Him because if you claim to be king in the midst of the kingdom of Herod or the reign of Caesar you die! In fact the charge on the cross when Jesus was executed was ‘the King of the Jews’.

So Jesus avoids being noticed and captured and He doesn’t want people to know that He claims to be King because He is not ready to die yet.

Why does Jesus put off death over and over again if He came simply to die? It is because Jesus came to establish his Kingdom. He gave the Kingdom Law – the Sermon on the Mount. He has to take the Twelve to reform the Kingdom of Israel around Himself.

Once Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom to Peter, now He talks for the first time about dying. Now He heads for Jerusalem where He will be killed. This is the turning point of the whole story of Jesus. Everything up to this point Jesus was teaching, preparing the Twelve, building up and establishing His Kingdom. Once Peter makes His profession of faith in Jesus and is given the keys, Jesus is ready to die.

‘On you Peter (Cephas - Rock) I will build my Church and I am going to gives you the keys of the Kingdom’. The keys of the Kingdom and the Church are synonymous. In other words, kingdom and Church are one and the same mystery according to Matt 16. In Jesus day, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom over and over again. Why? If He said Church, the Jews wouldn’t understand what that meant, because for the Jews the people of God are the Kingdom of God. So that is the language Jesus uses for Church – the Kingdom of God.

Source: The Gospel of Saint Matthew Bible Study
Dr Tim Gray
Professor of Scripture
St Augustine Institute

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