What does ‘Son of God’ mean (Matthew 16:16)?

There was this special day when Jesus discussed his identity with his followers. It must have been important for Jesus to take them 40 kilometres north of Galilee, a two-day journey to the headwaters of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi.

According to local legend, the cave there was the entrance to the underworld. There were two temples: one dedicated to the Greek god Pan, and another temple to honour Roman emperor. Surrounded by these competing claims for power — spiritual, religious, and political — Jesus asked them how they understood his identity: “Who do people say I am? … And what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27, 29).

This was Peter’s great confession. The synoptic Gospels record his answer slightly differently:

Mark 8 29  Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Matt 16 16  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Luke 9 20  Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (NIV)

There’s no problem with the differences. Biographers regularly condense dialogue, and occasionally they expand it for emphasis or to explain the sense. The question is, Did the Gospel writers think Peter had made two significant statements about Jesus, or one? Continue reading “What does ‘Son of God’ mean (Matthew 16:16)?”

God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:21-23)

Open Exodus 4:21-23.

Moses sets out for Egypt to confront Pharaoh with YHWH’s claim of sovereignty over the Hebrew people:

Exodus 4:22–23 (ESV)
22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”

The descendants of Jacob are God’s family. God has promised to restore the blessing of his governance to the nations through them. So God “fathers” the nation of Israel: they are born through the exodus.

What a joyful contrast: serving YHWH rather than Pharaoh. Liberated from oppressive human rule, they’re the first nation to be a kingdom of God.

Continue reading “God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:21-23)”