“The Aha Moment”

Matthew 16:13-20

Dr. Robert J. Anderson

August 24, 2014


We have all experienced it haven’t we?--that sudden burst of knowledge, insight and/or recognition that sometimes comes to each of us.  Suddenly the light goes on!  Staring at Sudoku puzzle or a Cross Word clue for the hundredth time and bingo, the answer comes to us.  Perhaps you are watching a movie bugged by the fact that you know the actor really well but cannot recall their name and later that evening it seems as if out of nowhere their name pops up in your head.  Do you do jigsaw puzzles?  You look and look for a piece to put in its place with no success.  You take a break and the next time you walk passed the puzzle there it is!  It verily jumps out at you!


There are major aha moments in life as well.  One such a moment is recorded here for Simon Peter.  What would we have felt if we suddenly realized that you were sitting across from the “anointed one,” “the Messiah,” or, if you will, “the Christ?”  This means you see the indication of God’s final act for the world. Right next to you is the Hope that has been promised for thousands of years. Suddenly there was the possibility of a whole new Era ahead of us.


The Messiah was a title that had gained great popularity in the time of Jesus, but no one had any real idea of the depth and world changing aspect of a real Messiah.  The people of Jesus’ day thought about Messiahs in military and political terms.  But, the real Messiah changed the way we think, act and understand ourselves.  When Peter first uttered those words they may have surprised even him, for he would’ve thought of the Messiah in the terms of his day--a military or political leader.  Peter would spend the rest of his life understanding this one insight.  A true Aha Moment can often be life changing.


Our passage begins with Jesus asking the disciples, “Who they say the Son of Man is?”  The response to this question seems to reflect a particular faction the person belongs to or experience they had.  Were they a disciple of John the Baptist?  Who was their favorite prophet--Elijah, Jeremiah, etc.?  Do they like Luther, Calvin, Barth, or Billy Graham?  Our tendency is to project on to Jesus our particular cultural, theological, or denominational biases.


Peter responds to the further question, on behalf of all of the disciples, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus then says that Peter came to this insight through God’s revelation to him, and then proceeds to tell Peter he will be the rock upon which God will build his church.  Scary isn’t it?  Peter is to be the foundation stone upon which the church will be built!  He’s given the keys to the kingdom.


Many of us are nervous when our children turn 16 and are given keys to a car that can go 100 mph!  It makes us nervous that Peter was given the keys to the kingdom!  Look at his track record!  Does he have the maturity of our 16-year old driver?  He constantly misses the point.  He often talks before he thinks.  A little later in Matthew’s gospel Jesus calls him Satan for thinking in human terms rather than divine ones.  Then Peter denies Jesus three times!  How does one give the keys to the kingdom to Peter?


Clearly, Peter isn’t given the keys because of his strength of character.  Peter gets the keys because of his testimony.  In essence, Peter says, “What I have experienced with you over these years is that you are the Messiah, the one sent by God to open our way into the family of God.


That’s where it is for each of us.  Paul writes to the church at Ephesus – “You have been saved by grace through faith.  This not of your own doing, lest anyone should boast.”  It isn’t our strength of character that saves us.  It isn’t our accomplishments that open the door into the family of God.  But, it is our testimony that Jesus Christ is Lord; we trust him; and we want to be his disciple studying his word, and showing his love.


The church’s testimony is given to it by Christ--not earned by something it does, said, or thinks.  For centuries the church has attempted to prove the existence of God through natural theology, logics, metaphysics, and science.  For ministers, their authority has sprung from seminary education and ordination in a particular tradition.  But, the church is not founded on Peter or John the Baptist or Elijah or Luther or Calvin.  The rock is not Peter.  The rock is Peter’s testimony and we are rocks (our testimony) built one on top of the other to form the church.


This passage calls us to move beyond our short-sighted focus to the larger picture.  We are called to have an aha moment like Peter.  Jesus is not John the Baptist or Elijah or any of the other figures of sacred history.  Jesus is not a projection of what we think the Messiah is like or should be like.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.  We will come to this through God showing himself to us.


We are called to move beyond our own places of comfort--whether they be political or denominations.  Theological emphasis, ethnic loyalties, political perspectives all can inform us, but they cannot paralyze us so we miss the call of Christ to be his church.  We want the Holy Spirit to energize us and strengthen us to speak truthfully to one another in and through our differences about the impact of Jesus Christ on our own lives.  Let us set aside our need to be right, and testify to how it is that Jesus Christ is Lord our lives; how we trust him; how we learn about him and live out his love in the world.  Let the Spirit of God be upon all of us, so that together we are the people God calls us to be!  Let us rise up and testify that Christ is bigger than our understandings; for our greatest thoughts are below his least thoughts!


Let us pray together that God enable us not to simply rehearse what we think we understand, but to be open to the “aha" moments God has in store for us.  Every day let us pray, “Dear God, we ask that something unexpected happen as your Holy Spirit pours over and through us."  Then be ready.  Then live each day expecting God to do the unexpected.  Then each of us will truly live in the “aha” moments of life!