Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals’ outfielder) was standing at home plate with a bat in his hand. As the pitcher prepared to deliver, someone from the stands yelled out, “Overrated!” The meaning was obvious. That fan believed Harper gets more hype than is deserved. A second later, Harper buried the next pitch deep into the bullpen. (For you non-baseball fans, that means he smacked a long home run.) Now, that is what I’d call an appropriate response.
Appropriate responses are few and far between these days. In their stead, folks go on the attack. If they can’t come up with an intelligent comeback, they do what they can to humiliate the one with whom they disagree. It’s almost become the national pastime (which used to be baseball).
Coincidentally, there was a moment in the life of Jesus when he asked his disciples for a response. He was discussing his reputation with them and asked what the general populace was saying about Him. (Matthew 16:13) They filled Him in as best they could with what they’d heard—John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, etc. These disciples had been hanging around Jesus long enough to know that none of those answers were correct, but they hadn’t figured Him out yet either.
“How About You?”
Then Jesus put them on the spot. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (V. 15) The Bible doesn’t tell us this, but I’m guessing there was an uncomfortable silence for a while. Then, one of them spoke up. Naturally, it was Simon (the one we know more famously as Peter—Rocky). He earned his new nickname by making a statement that would be (in Jesus’ words) “the rock” on which He would build His church.
Peter was not always known for his appropriate responses. If you’ll glean the Gospels, you’ll notice that he had a propensity for firing out of his mouth. Today, we like to call it shooting from the hip. Some of the things that tumbled out of his oral cavity were, shall we say, less than kosher. This time, however, things were a bit different.
Shooting Off Your Mouth
His statement in response to Jesus’ question was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (V. 16) I assume that at least one of the other disciples was thinking to himself, “Oh no, Simon! There you go again!” I wouldn’t doubt that Simon, himself, clapped his hand over his mouth as soon as those words escaped his lips. But just then, Jesus surprised them all—including Simon, I presume.
The surprise was Jesus’ reaction to Simon’s declaration. He said to his brash apostle, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (V. 17) As it turns out, this very appropriate response came not so much from Simon, but from the Holy Spirit.
If we would limit our responses to those we receive from God, I’m sure we’d hit a lot more home runs.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]