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Thursday – Eighteenth week – OT1
Readings: Num 20:1-13; Mt 16:13-23.
1/ First Reading: RSV Numbers 20:1 And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 Now there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people contended with Moses, and said, “Would that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. 12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel contended with the LORD, and he showed himself holy among them.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 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. 19 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.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. 21 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. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
I. THEME: The leader can fall because of his weakness.
In the Old Testament, there is no good and important leader than Moses. God Himself certified this because he was seen, heard and conversed with Him, and he is the mediator of the Old Covenant. In the New Testament, there is no important leader than Peter. Jesus himself chose Peter to lead his Church because he clearly knew his identity and saw his glorious Transfiguration.
However, both of them contended against God in today readings. In the first reading, Moses didn’t obey God’s command so he had no right to lead the Israelites into the Promise Land even God let him see it from Mt. Nebo. According to the Book of Numbers, he used the staff to strike the rock twice instead of speaking to the rock as God commanded him to have water for people to drink. In the Gospel, Peter prevented Jesus to go to Jerusalem to endure his Passion, Death and Resurrection though he professed Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus rebuked him with a heavy sentence, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
1/ Reading I: “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
This is the second time the Israelites rebelled against Moses and Aaron due to a lacking of water. The first time was at Rephidim (Exo 17:1-7), God commanded Moses to go, together with the elders, and used his staff to strike the rock at Horeb Mountain; and water came out for people to drink. The second time was at Kadesh. There are two locations called Kadesh: one at Edom and one closed to the boundary of Canaan. It is difficult to determine the location; but one thing is certain, it is different with Rephidim, the first time.
1.1/ God’s command: He said to Moses, “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”
If we carefully read the passage, we can see God’s command was different with the first time at Rephidim: He commanded Moses to take the staff, but do not strike, but only tell the rock at Kadesh and it will give water.
1.2/ Moses’ action: “Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle.”
God isn’t happy with Moses’ action because he didn’t exactly do as He commanded. So the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Some said God is so severe when He punished Moses; but we need to know that it is God’s command and Moses must do as he was told. Some said because Moses didn’t clearly hear God’s command, so he did as the first time. This must be a clear example for all leaders. They must study to clearly know God’s command before they execute it. The results of this obedience are: Aaron passed away on Ho Mountain (Num 20:27-29), and Moses died on Nebo Mountain after God let him see the Promise Land (Deut 32:52).
2/ Gospel: The New Covenant was established between Jesus and his Church through Peter.
2.1/ “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” There are two places called Caesarea in Israel. The first one called Caesar Maritime which lies along the Mediteranean Sea, and the second one called Caesar Philippi because it is located in the region which belonged to the Tetrach Philip, one of Herode’s three children. This place is located about twenty-five miles from the Galilee Sea toward the northeast, near to boundary with Syria, and is called Banias today. This is a region which is different with all other places in Israel. The first difference is that water is everywhere because it lies at the foot of the Hermon mountain; when the snow of this mountain melts, the water flows to here and forms the top source of the Jordan river before flowing into the Galilee sea.
This is also the center of many religions because of its mysterious atmosphere. The authors of Psalm 42:6 and 133:3 reminds all the Jews to remember God when they come to this region because the Jordan river is very important of their life. It is God’s blessing for people because they can’t live without it. There were about fourteen altars here. There were altars of the Syrian gods because they lived here before. It had also the altar of Pan, the Greek’s god of nature, when the Greek dominated this region. Beside this altar is a giant cave, on the top is a mountain, under it is a deep cave full of water. On other side, Philip built a giant temple, made with white marble to honor the emperor Caesar. Standing before this mysterious center with many different altars, people shall be confused and a question might come to their mind: What is the truth? What god is the true one?
Jesus posed out two questions for his disciples and expected them to give him their answers. Moreover, his two main missions in the world are: First, to reveal to people all what God wants them to know; and secondly, to train his disciples to continue his mission on earth. Now is the important moment because he is about going to Jerusalem in order to die and to finish his mission on earth. He needs to find out if his disciples understand his mission, and especially his identity before they could continue his mission.
Therefore, he began by asking them the first question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” The Tetrarch Herode Antipas called Jesus as John Baptist who is resurrected from death (Mt 14:2). When people called Jesus as the prophet Elijah, they partly recognized his power and importance because the Jewish tradition believes Elijah isn’t died yet and he shall return before the Messiah’s coming (Mal 4:5). They still reserve a seat for him in the synagogue when they celebrate the Passover. Similarly, when they called Jesus as Jeremiah, they also believe that he shall come before the Messiah’s coming. The Jewish tradition believes that Jeremiah came to the Jerusalem temple before the exile to Babylon, took the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense and hid them on Nebo mountain. He shall come back to reproduce these things so that God shall continue to present with His people (cf. 2 Mac 2:1-12). When people called Jesus as the prophet Elijah or Jeremiah, they didn’t believe Jesus as the Messiah, just as a herald to prepare for the Messiah to come. If Jesus’ disciples also believed as such, Jesus’ mission shall be failed.
2.2/ Jesus’ true identity: The decisive moment came, Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”
Christ, Christos in Greek and Messiah in Hebrew, means the Anointed One to be a king whom all the Israelites are expecting. This is the answer which Jesus is expecting from his disciples; but Jesus wanted to let Peter know the reason why he knew what people didn’t know, that is: because he was revealed by Jesus’ heavenly Father. This reason was also confirmed by Paul: “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).
Since Peter represented all apostles to declare Jesus’ true identity, Jesus can be at peace because he shall have his successors to continue what he started. Jesus established the New Covenant with the Church through Peter: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.”
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
This happened to Peter because even though he knew Jesus’ true identity, but as also many contemporary Jews, he thought Jesus shall use his divine power to conquer all nations. To him, the Messiah who must go through suffering and the cross to save people is impossible to happen.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– As the leaders of the family or the community, we must absolutely obey God’s commandment. Don’t violate any of His commandments.
– When we don’t clearly understand His commandments, we can pray, study and ask for guidance. Don’t close your eyes and do according to your will or suppose that it can be done as such.