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Weekly Bible Study and Worship Resources

Ordinary 21 Year A

keys of the kingdomIntroduction

Jesus asked his disciples who people said he was. The disciples tell Jesus that there is confusion, some people think that Jesus is John the Baptist back from the dead! Jesus then asks the disciples who they think that he is.

Peter declares: "You are the Messiah", in saying those words he defines what it means for us to be called Christian. To be Christian means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Peter knows that Jesus is not just a clever teacher or a good example to follow, Jesus is the visible presence of God on earth.

So too we are asked to think who Jesus is. Peter was told by Jesus that only God could reveal his true identity, 'flesh and blood has not revealed this to you....'
If you and I are able to worship Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, then we represent the power of God at work in our lives.

So, are we now willing to make the kind of life changing investment which is required of his disciples?  

Opening Verses of Scripture    Romans Chapter 11

O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common Worship

Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.Common Worship

Lord of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, give us patience and courage never to lose hope, but always to bring our prayers before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship

Holy God, you liberate the oppressed and make a way of salvation. Unite us with all who cry for justice, and lead us together into freedom; through our Lord and Liberator, Jesus Christ.  Amen. Methodist Worship

Merciful God, grant that your Church being gathered by your Holy Spirit into one, may reveal your glory among all peoples, to the honour of your name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading  Isaiah 51: 1-6

"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD : Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many. The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. "Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies.  But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

Second Reading  Romans Chapter 12:1-8

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Gospel Reading Matthew Chapter 16:13-20

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
 

Post Communion Sentence

Lord God, the source of truth and love, keep us faithful to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, united in prayer and the breaking of bread, and in one joy and simplicity of heart, in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
 

Commentary

Jesus goes to Caesarea Philippi with his disciples. Caesarea Philippi was so named because it was rebuilt by the Tetrarch Herod Philip in honour of the emperor Tiberius. Lying 25 miles north of Galilee, it was a beautiful place in the foothills of the snow capped Mount Hermon. Springs fed by the melting snow from Mount Hermon formed the headwaters of the Jordan River. The site was beautiful and lush compared to the dryness of much of the surrounding countryside. Jesus may have chosen this as a good place to get away from the crowds because it was a beautiful location for a break. This was as close as Jesus was going to get to a holiday.
Perhaps also importantly, this was formerly the area which had been called Paneas in honour of the Greek god, Pan, the god of music. The inhabitants were largely Gentile, this is Gentile territory. Perhaps the Gentile background of the place was important for Jesus, it is certainly important for us, because it reminds us that the events which follow took place in a time and place in which there were many competing religious voices. Jesus is about to ask the disciples to come to a conclusion and decide who he really is. They were surrounded by other religions and they had to think what was important and make their minds up.

Jesus asks the disciples "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" The disciples report a variety of answers.
The idea that Jesus was John the Baptist has already been mentioned by Herod in Matthew 14:1-2. At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him." The mention of Elijah is understandable for several reasons. John the Baptist had been identified as Elijah or an Elijah-type figure. Elijah had also been noted for miracles. The mention of Jeremiah is unique to Matthew's gospel at this location. Or one of the prophets. What John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah had in common was that they were prophets. The people who had seen and heard of Jesus' ministry were describing him as a prophet. The New Testament is clear that Jesus' ministry shared the characteristics of the ministry of many of the prophets. "Prophet" was a common title to describe Jesus. Then Jesus then asks them the more important question - "Who do you all say that I am?"
The question was to all the disciples, but Peter spoke first, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." At this point, three of the major titles for Jesus are brought together: Son of Man, Messiah (the Christ), and Son of God. The English word "Christ" is the English form of the Greek word christos which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah. Technically, it would be possible to replace the name "Christ" with the title "Messiah" everywhere in the New Testament. This is the first time in Matthew's gospel that the Messiahship of Jesus has been confessed directly. Several times Matthew has himself indicated that Jesus was Messiah (Matthew 1:1, 16, 17; 2:4; 11:2) but this is the first time it appears on the lips of a character in the story. As messiah, Jesus was the fulfilment of Jewish hopes and he was the culmination of God's involvement in human history to bring us salvation. Peter also confessed Jesus to be "the Son of the Living God." This exact phrase is found only in Matthew's account of the episode at Caesarea Philippi. Mark 8:29 has only, "You are the Christ (or the Messiah)" and Luke 9:20 states Peter's confession as, "You are the Christ (or Messiah) of God."
Perhaps it was his Jewish audience that made it important for Matthew to clarify that Jesus was much more than simply the Jewish messiah. The theme of Jesus' divine sonship has been important throughout Matthew. The voice from heaven announced it at Jesus' baptism. Satan tempted Jesus at that point in the temptations. The disciples had all acclaimed Jesus Son of God already in Matthew 14:33 after Jesus (and Peter) had walked on the water. Now it is combined with the titles Messiah and Son of Man to provide the most complete identification of Jesus to yet appear in this gospel.
Israel had waited a long time, old Judaism still waits today for the Messiah. But Peter's confession expresses the fulfilment of the Jewish dream and makes us the real Jews. For we have welcomed the Messiah. This is the root of our identity as Christians. To know who Jesus is, is vital.

  1. It is not enough to believe that he is very important.

  2. It is not enough to believe that he is like the other prophets and messengers of God.

  3. It is not enough to believe he is like the Buddha, a very important religious teacher.

When Peter declares: "You are the Messiah", he is saying what has to be said for us to be called Christian. To be Christian means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Anything else -- anything less -- might be religious, but it is not Christian.
How does Jesus respond to Peter
Jesus uses the name in Aramaic 'Petros', in Greek 'Cephas'. Whether Jesus would have used the Aramaic or Greek is irrelevant because in both languages the word refers to a rock or stone. Protestants have argued that it is the confession of Peter which is important and not Peter himself. However we should acknowledge that Jesus does give Peter a special place. Clearly this was an important moment and Peter was to be a foundation of the church in a special way but-

This passage has been used perhaps more than any other to justify the papacy. But the text says nothing about the successors of Peter, or infallibility or exclusive authority. Whilst Jesus gives this blessing to Peter, there is no suggestion that the blessing can be passed on -- or that any succession is intended.
The granting of authority to Simon Peter is also for all the apostles (v. 19), for elsewhere in Matthew (18:18) and John (20:23) this bestowal of power is on all of them.
We have to be careful of putting Peter on a pedestal, we all know what a mess Peter went on to make and how he completely misunderstood what being Messiah meant, so much so that Jesus said to him 'get behind me Satan!' 16:23 One minute he is a foundation, the next a stumbling block!
Clearly Jesus is the church's foundation 1 Cor 3:11, Ephesians 2:19 and all the apostles are involved as foundations.
Jesus gives the keys
Jesus then speaks of giving the keys. Keys are a symbol of power and authority.
I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Rev 1:18
If you have keys then you hold power of entry and admittance. Of course it does not follow that Jesus was speaking about priestly roles of absolution and forgiveness. When Jesus said to Peter
'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven'
He is speaking specifically to Peter. This must indicate that Peter has a special role. Peter was the foundation, the first stone laid. He has primacy in salvation history. However I cannot see that it therefore follows that Peter has any special position of hierarchy, indeed such teaching seems alien to the whole message of Christ. We should think of the rest of Jesus' teaching where he speaks of the 'power' which all the disciples have - They are fishers of men 4:19; they are salt 5:13; light 5:14.

The disciples collectively are called to speak words which will offer entrance to life. Jesus says that not even Hades, not even death can prevail against these words of life. Hades is the abode of the dead. Jesus will break death's power by his own resurrection, which is but the first fruits of the many faithful who will be raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:23). Not only Jesus, but all the redeemed among the dead, shall rise again and stride confidently through the broken gates.

Because death is of Satan, the church need not be afraid of any evil. The church and those who are a part of it will never die, they will conquer all. These words of Jesus should not surprise us. The Christian gospel holds supernatural power, it is a power which can unlock people's lives.

Conclusion:
So where does that leave us today
1. The question to us
As we hear Jesus' question to Peter, it is asked of us too. Can we also say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...?"

Peter responded with his declaration of faith in Jesus. Peter might have felt proud of himself working out who Jesus really was. His pleasure would have been short lived, because Jesus told him that his response was not because he was a really clever person at all. Jesus says that the only way that he could have worked it out was because of God

'flesh and blood has not revealed this to you....'

If you and I are able to worship Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, then we represent the power of God at work in our lives. So, are we now willing to make the kind of life changing investment which is required of his disciples? If we mean what we say then we are a part of that holy people called to live a different and challenging Christian life? It is worth remembering that those Apostles gave their lives for their faith, literally. We cannot be sure of the accuracy of tradition which tells us how they died. But what is clear is that the tradition all points to the fact that they all gave their lives and many died violent deaths for their faith. (See note below)

2.Our task
The church is not a group of Jesus supporters who go along on Sunday to watch how well Jesus performs. As the church we are spirit empowered disciples who are the active representation of Christ on earth. You and I hold spiritual keys and just like those first Apostles we are called to be fishers of men.

3. God's promise
In all of this we must remember that we hold spiritual keys, not human one's. The task of building the church is not ours, Jesus does not say to the disciples 'you build my church' rather he says,

'I will build my church'

The building of the church is a work of Christ. It is a godly work, not a human one. It is for this reason that the church will endure and triumph.
Amen Charles Royden]

Sermon link
 

Meditation

You must descend from your head into your heart. At present your thoughts of God are in your head. And God Himself is, as it were, outside you, and so your prayer and other spiritual excercises remain exterior. Whilst you are still in your head, thoughts will not easily be subdued but will always be whirling about, like snow in winter or clouds of mosquitoes in summer. -Theopan the Recluse 1815-1894 quoted from For Lovers of God Everywhere, Roger Housden

Hymn

  • Joyful, joyful, we adore thee
  • There is a redeemer
  • Restore O Lord
  • My hope is built on nothing less (Tune Magic Flute - Mozart)
  • To him we come
  • Our eyes have seen the glory
  • Master speak thy servant heareth
  • The Church’s One Foundation
  • Guide me O thou great Jehovah

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Heavenly Father, may your Holy Spirit lead the rich nations to support the poor, and the strong nations to support the weak; so that every nation may develop in its own way, and work together with other nations in true partnership for the promotion of peace and the good of all people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Diocese of Melanesia

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ cared for the welfare of everyone and went about doing good; grant us the imagination and perseverance to create in this country and throughout the world a just and loving society for the human family, and make us agents of your compassion to the suffering, the persecuted and the oppressed, through the Spirit of your Son, who shared the sufferings of men, our pattern and our redeemer, Jesus Christ. Norwich Cathedral

God, we know that every person is your beloved child. When anyone suffers, you suffer also. may we have the courage to bring equality among people, so that your life, as well as ours, is free from the pain of injustice. Amen. John W. Riggs

O Lord, vouchsafe to look mercifully upon us, and grant that we may ever choose the way of peace.  Sarum Missal

Additional Material

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

 

Hymn

  • City of God how broad and far (Tune Richmond)
  • I The Lord of sea and sky
  • O thou who camest (Tune Hereford)
  • Lord thy church on earth is seeking (Tune Hyfrodol)

Commentary

 

 

Map showing Caesarea Philippi

Commentary

Perhaps we can picture the scene first.

Jesus goes to Caesarea Philippi with his disciples.

Caesarea Philippi was so named because it was rebuilt by the Tetrarch Herod Philip in honour of the emperor Tiberius. Lying 25 miles north of Galilee, it was a beautiful place in the foothills of the snow capped Mount Hermon. Springs fed by the melting snow from Mount Hermon formed the headwaters of the Jordan River. The site was beautiful and lush compared to the dryness of much of the surrounding countryside. Jesus may have chosen this as a good place to get away from the crowds because it was a beautiful location for a break. This was as close as Jesus was going to get to a holiday.

Perhaps also importantly, this was formerly the area which had been called Paneas in honour of the Greek god, Pan. The inhabitants were largely Gentile, this is Gentile territory. Perhaps the Gentile background of the place was important for Jesus, it is certainly important for us, because it reminds us that the events which follow took place in a time and place in which there were many competing religious voices. Jesus is about to ask the disciples to come to a conclusion and decide who he really is. They were surrounded by other religions and they had to think what was important and make their minds up.

That is very much the context in which we find ourselves, there are for us many different and competing religious movements which try to claim our attention. Likewise, the people whom we live alongside and work alongside are also faced with a multitude of religious choices. People in our society today are exposed to more religions than ever before. Many people are searching for religious faith, but there is now a vast array of choice between religions from all over the world.

Let's consider why

Jesus asks the disciples "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

The disciples report a variety of answers. 

  1. The idea that Jesus was John the Baptist has already been mentioned by Herod in Matthew 14:1-2. At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him."
  2. The mention of Elijah is understandable for several reasons. John the Baptist had been identified as Elijah or an Elijah-type figure. Elijah had also been noted for miracles.
  3. The mention of Jeremiah is unique to Matthew's gospel at this location.
  4. Or one of the prophets. What John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah had in common was that they were prophets. The people who had seen and heard of Jesus' ministry were describing him as a prophet. The New Testament is clear that Jesus' ministry shared the characteristics of the ministry of many of the prophets. "Prophet" was a common title to describe Jesus.

Then Jesus then asks them the more important question - "Who do you all say that I am?"

The question was to all the disciples, but Peter spoke first,

"You are the Christ, the son of the living God."

At this point, three of the major titles for Jesus are brought together: Son of Man, Messiah (the Christ), and Son of God.

(The English word "Christ" is the English form of the Greek word christos which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah. Technically, it would be possible to replace the name "Christ" with the title "Messiah" everywhere in the New Testament.)

This is the first time in Matthew's gospel that the Messiahship of Jesus has been confessed directly. Several times Matthew has himself indicated that Jesus was Messiah (Matthew 1:1, 16, 17; 2:4; 11:2) but this is the first time it appears on the lips of a character in the story. As messiah, Jesus was the fulfilment of Jewish hopes and he was the culmination of God's involvement in human history to bring us salvation.

Peter also confessed Jesus to be "the Son of the Living God." This exact phrase is found only in Matthew's account of the episode at Caesarea Philippi. Mark 8:29 has only, "You are the Christ (or the Messiah)" and Luke 9:20 states Peter's confession as, "You are the Christ (or Messiah) of God."

Perhaps it was his Jewish audience that made it important for Matthew to clarify that Jesus was much more than simply the Jewish messiah. The theme of Jesus' divine sonship has been important throughout Matthew. The voice from heaven announced it at Jesus' baptism. Satan tempted Jesus at that point in the temptations. The disciples had all acclaimed Jesus Son of God already in Matthew 14:33 after Jesus (and Peter) had walked on the water.

Now it is combined with the titles Messiah and Son of Man to provide the most complete identification of Jesus to yet appear in this gospel.

Israel had waited a long time, old Judaism still waits today for the Messiah. But Peter's confession expresses the fulfilment of the Jewish dream and makes us the real Jews. For we have welcomed the Messiah

This is the root of our identity as Christians. To know who Jesus is, is vital.

  1. It is not enough to believe that he is very important.
  2. It is not enough to believe that he is like the other prophets and messengers of God.
  3. It is not enough to believe he is like the Buddha, a very important religious teacher.

When Peter declares: "You are the Messiah", he is saying what has to be said for us to be called Christian. To be Christian means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Anything else -- anything less -- might be religious, but it is not Christian.

How does Jesus respond to Peter

Jesus uses the name in Aramaic 'Petros', in Greek 'Cephas'. Whether Jesus would have used the Aramaic or Greek is irrelevant because in both languages the word refers to a rock or stone. Protestants have argued that it is the confession of Peter which is important and not Peter himself. However we should acknowledge that Jesus does give Peter a special place. Clearly this was an important moment and Peter was to be a foundation of the church in a special way but-

  1. This passage has been used perhaps more than any other to justify the papacy. But the text says nothing about the successors of Peter, or infallibility or exclusive authority. Whilst Jesus gives this blessing to Peter, there is no suggestion that the blessing can be passed on -- or that any succession is intended.
  2. The granting of authority to Simon Peter is also for all the apostles (v. 19), for elsewhere in Matthew (18:18) and John (20:23) this bestowal of power is on all of them.
  3. We have to be careful of putting Peter on a pedestal, we all know what a mess Peter went on to make and how he completely misunderstood what being Messiah meant, so much so that Jesus said to him 'get behind me Satan!' 16:23 One minute he is a foundation, the next a stumbling block!
  4. Clearly Jesus is the church's foundation 1 Cor 3:11, Ephesians 2:19 and all the apostles are involved as foundations.

Jesus gives the keys

Jesus then speaks of giving the keys. Keys are a symbol of power and authority. 

I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.  Rev 1:18

If you have keys then you hold power of entry and admittance. Of course it does not follow that Jesus was speaking about priestly roles of absolution and forgiveness. When Jesus said to Peter

'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven'

He is speaking specifically to Peter. This must indicate that Peter has a special role. Peter was the foundation, the first stone laid. He has primacy in salvation history. However I cannot see that it therefore follows that Peter has any special position of hierarchy, indeed such teaching seems alien to the whole message of Christ. We should think of the rest of Jesus' teaching where he speaks of the 'power' which all the disciples have - They are fishers of men 4:19; they are salt 5:13; light 5:14.

The disciples collectively are called to speak words which will offer entrance to life. Jesus says that not even Hades, not even death can prevail against these words of life. Hades is the abode of the dead. Jesus will break death's power by his own resurrection, which is but the first fruits of the many faithful who will be raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:23). Not only Jesus, but all the redeemed among the dead, shall rise again and stride confidently through the broken gates.

Because death is of Satan, the church need not be afraid of any evil. The church and those who are a part of it will never die, they will conquer all. These words of Jesus should not surprise us. The Christian gospel holds supernatural power, it is a power which can unlock people's lives.

Conclusion: 
So where does that leave us today

1. The question to us 
As we hear Jesus' question to Peter, it is asked of us too. Can we also say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...?"

Peter responded with his declaration of faith in Jesus. Peter might have felt proud of himself working out who Jesus really was. His pleasure would have been short lived, because Jesus told him that his response was not because he was a really clever person at all. Jesus says that the only way that he could have worked it out was because of God

'flesh and blood has not revealed this to you....'

If you and I are able to worship Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, then we represent the power of God at work in our lives. So, are we now willing to make the kind of life changing investment which is required of his disciples? If we mean what we say then we are a part of that holy people called to live a different and challenging Christian life? It is worth remembering that those Apostles gave their lives for their faith, literally. We cannot be sure of the accuracy of tradition which tells us how they died. But what is clear is that the tradition all points to the fact that they all gave their lives and many died violent deaths for their faith.

2.Our task 
The church is not a group of Jesus supporters who go along on Sunday to watch how well Jesus performs. As the church we are spirit empowered disciples who are the active representation of Christ on earth. You and I hold spiritual keys and just like those first Apostles we are called to be fishers of men.

3. God's promise 
In all of this we must remember that we hold spiritual keys, not human one's. The task of building the church is not ours, Jesus does not say to the disciples 'you build my church' rather he says, 'I will build my church'

Amen


Additional Information

Son of Man

The meaning of the phrase, "Son of Man," has received considerable discussion by modern scholars. Almost all the times this title appears in the New Testament (over 80 times) (e.g. 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32; 13:37,41; 16:13, 27; 17:9, 12, 22; 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39; 25:31; 26:2, 24, 45, 64). it appears on Jesus' own lips or is spoken by someone in response to Jesus' use of the title. It appears to have been Jesus' favourite term to describe himself. It is frequently used as a substitute for the word "I" and that appears to be its usage here. (The parallel passage in Mark 8:27 reads, "Who do people say that I am?"). The most common opinion is that Jesus drew the phrase from Daniel 7:13 where it refers to a heavenly figure who is coming in the future. Jesus appeared to prefer the title "Son of Man" since it was not widely used or understood in Judaism. That enabled him to define his identity in his own way.

Here in Matthew 16:13 "Son of Man" is simply a substitute for "I." Jesus is asking who people think him to be.

What Happened To The Apostles

Some have commented how wonderful it must have been to have been chosen as one of the apostles, or to have been John the Baptist, or to have been among the earliest of Christians who actually saw and heard Jesus Christ in person. It certainly would have been a great honour and joy to have been among those pioneers of the true church. However, with the knowledge and understanding came responsibility. They were expected to go out into the world and be active witnesses of what they saw and heard. That was their purpose. In the political and religious climate of that time, the God-defying hatred that got Jesus Christ killed (which really has not changed at all), many of them lost their lives as well.

The Bible does not record what happened to all of the apostles, however there are other references to their activities. Some are rather fanciful, while some are more trustworthy. From those sources, a general consensus has been established among historians.

From the information that we have, it is very likely that John was the only one of the original Twelve Apostles to escape martyrdom, at least at an early age. After he wrote the book of Revelation, while a prisoner of the Romans, even he too may then have been killed.

John The Baptist 
John The Baptist was beheaded by Herod. (Matthew 14:1-12)

Stephen 
The account of Stephen is very well documented in the Bible (Acts chapters 6 and 7). He is generally regarded as the first Christian martyr. It has been estimated that about 2,000 Christians, along with Nicanor, one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5), also suffered martyrdom during the great persecution that arose after Stephen (Acts 8:1).

James, the brother of John 
James was "put to death with the sword" by King Herod (Acts 12:2)

Philip 
Reportedly suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was severely flogged, imprisoned, and later crucified.

Matthew 
The former tax collector, he was killed with a halberd (a pike fitted with an ax head) in Nadabah.

James 
Stoned and clubbed to death in Jerusalem.

Matthias 
He was stoned, then beheaded at Jerusalem.

Andrew, the brother of Peter 
He was crucified on an X-shaped cross, two ends of which were in the ground. Hence the origin of the term, "St. Andrew's Cross".

Mark 
Mark was reportedly torn to pieces by a mob in Alexandria after he told them that their god, a statue carved from stone, was worthless. 

Peter 
Peter was reportedly crucified, upside down, during the reign of Emperor Nero.

Paul 
Beheaded, or torn to pieces by wild animals in the arena, during the time of Nero. 

Jude 
The brother of James, often called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa.

Bartholomew 
Tortured and crucified in India.

Thomas 
Thomas was reportedly killed with a spear in India.

Luke 
Luke was the author of the Gospel which is called by his name, and also probably the Book Of Acts. One account states that he died of old age, while another says that he was hanged in an olive tree in Greece.

Simon the Zealot 
He travelled widely, and is believed to have been crucified in what is today Britain.

John 
John took care of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, after the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27). He went on to write the Book of Revelation while a prisoner on Patmos. He may be the only apostle who escaped a violent death.

Barnabas 
Barnabas is believed to have been killed about 10 years after Paul.

Meditation

We don't go to church
The holiest moment of the church service is the moment when God's people -- strengthened by word and sacrament -- go out of the church door into the world to be the Church. We don't go to church; we are the Church.

Prayers

God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna, the living bread from heaven: let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place where hunger and thirst are no more; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks. All things are of your making, all times and seasons obey your laws, but you chose to create man in your own image, setting him over the whole world in all its wonder. You made man the steward of creation, to praise you day by day for the marvels of your wisdom and power, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.