August 5, 2021 - Follow Your Heart - A Reflection on Matthew 16:13-23

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

“Who do you say I am?” Of all the questions Jesus has ever asked, this one is right there among the top three. It is absolutely essential that every person who calls himself a Christian be able to answer it with the spontaneity and the surety that Peter answered: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Every other way we understand Jesus has to follow from this one. 

Now I want to draw your attention to something that has probably escaped it in previous readings. Why was Peter the only one to answer Jesus? Didn’t the other apostles know who Jesus was? Of course they did! Just two chapters before this one we find Jesus walking on water and calming the storm and at the end of it Scripture says this. “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).

Those in the boat were the apostles. They declared that he was the Son of God. So when Jesus asks them who they said he was why is it only Peter who answers? Because Peter lets his heart speak for him. What do I mean? Let me tell you about the mind and the heart, and this is from the poetic, not biological, perspective. We need our minds to think, to make sense of, to understand. These reflections would mean nothing if we didn’t have a mind to process them.

We need our hearts to feel, to move, to stir. If these reflections were only directed to the intellect they would have little appeal. They are targeted to the heart as well. Now there is an important difference between the heart and the mind. While the heart is impulsive and impetuous, the mind is cold and calculating. Nothing wrong with this — both functions are needed — only sometimes the mind gets in the way of the heart.

The heart wants to do something, the heart wants to say something, the heart wants to feel something, and the mind goes: Stop! You can’t do that, you can’t say that, you can’t feel that. Yes? Now Peter is all heart, and it gets him into trouble sometimes, but more often than not it serves him well. Like when Jesus asks this question: Who do you say I am? While the other apostles are still trying to figure it out, Peter mouth has already declared what his heart already knows. 

Follow your heart today. Especially if you hear Jesus calling you to follow him.