Good Morning Brothers…
The cold blustery north winds have made the last couple weeks a challenge. Numb toes and tingly fingers have competed for blood flow as my tree slowly sways back and forth under the onslaught of a strong north wind. Shooting from an elevated position under these conditions is like shooting from a boat. My target may not be moving, but I certainly am.
As I think about the bones of Joseph and Peter and their importance to our faith, I keep coming back to this verse from Exodus 13:19, Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.” It is almost as if the blessing from God is dependent on the bones being carried to the promised land. While that statement may come off as a reach, I’m not so sure it isn’t accurate. Accurate in that the bones came to symbolize God’s promise to Abraham. The Hebrews were in captivity for 400 years and still remembered to dig up Joseph’s bones before they left Egypt. In a verbal culture, where history was passed down from generation to generation through stories, the story of Joseph’s bones was linked to the promise to Abraham. The Hebrews took comfort in the promise to come because Joseph’s bones were still in Egypt. God’s promise of freedom was still in front of them because the bones were still with them. The bones became a focal point for the Hebrews on God’s promise to come.
If I think about the bones of Joseph as being a focal point for faith in God’s promises to come, it helps me understand why our spiritual ancestors built a basilica on double sloped ground covered with a pagan grave yard. This passage from Matthew 16:13-20 gives us the historical context, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but 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 Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.“
Wow…Jesus renames Simon Barjona and calls him Peter, or “the rock”. Other interpretations of this passage state that “the rock” was the statement of faith that came out of Simon Barjona’s mouth, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” While this can be argued “effectively” either way, what Jesus says next clinches it for me. Jesus blesses Simon Barjonah specifically, and then empowers him to bind and loose things on earth in the name of Heaven. Again…wow! I think it is interesting that the New Testament Scriptures refer to Simon Barjoha as Peter, meaning, the writers of the New Testament thought of Peter and referred to Peter as “the rock”. It was not only the man, it was the man’s faith that became “the rock” by which the Church would be built. Peter himself recorded these words in 1 Peter 2:4-6, And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
The “rock” like faith of the man Peter, is contained in all believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus praised Peter for his answer, He said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” As God reveals Himself to us, we too become living stones, rejected by the world, on which the Church will continue to grow and multiply. Our spiritual ancestors understood this statement by Jesus both physically and spiritually. For hundreds of years they protected and hid the bones of St. Peter, formerly known as Simon Barjona. Once an Emperor came to power in Rome that was pro-Christian, the location of St. Peter’s tomb was revealed to him. A basilica was built on the double sloped site, over the top of the pagan grave yard, with the alter placed directly over the tomb of St. Peter. His bones lie as a foundation stone for the structure of the Church built on top. His bones have come to symbolize God’s promise of “anointing and empowering” the Church to bind and loose things on earth in Heavens name.
Our bones important…?
Well…they certainly were to our spiritual ancestors.