Central to this passage is the question raised by its setting: 'Who rules?' Herod Philip? Caesar? Or this upstart Son of Humanity now on centre stage? Don't bog down in go-nowhere arguments about Pete & his declaration. That's not about ecclesiastical authority at all, of any kind. Put simply, it's about the fact that God rules! A Rule personified, demonstrated, lived out in Jesus. The very antithesis of Herods, Caesars, bishops, pastors, councils, assemblies, control freaks of any kind. Secular or religious.
If Jesus is the One in whom true humanity centres, then God & God's Rule centres there too. Not in Canberra, London, Washington, etc., any more than Caesarea Philippi of old. We can call Jesus 'Christ', 'Anointed', 'God', anything we like as long as we accept that implicit in him is God's Rule. That is the rock! Anything else ends up as a millstone! That drowns us or grinds us! If we are his Body, if we live as his Body, then God's Rule is embodied in & among us too. No matter how rulers & would be rulers, or society in general react to that.
Who Jesus is isn't exactly a burning issue today. Once we could take his identity pretty much as a given. Not so today, even in some churches! He's victim, all over again, on a cross of ruthless, restless, relentless questioning. Jesus is being questioned to death all over again - often by his own 'side'! Sometimes there seems to be not much of him left. Bones picked pretty clean. Of course we need to question. But we need to know our place as questioners of the Beyond Questioning One. Job, more than anyone else in our faith heritage, stands as warning of the dangers of pushing God too far. The same issue crops up in 17 here, when Jesus tells Peter he could only have made his great affirmation of faith on the basis of it being revealed to him by God. If it's true that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, that's not because Peter says so, but because God has made him so, & reveals that to Peter. And to us.
Today's question isn't only what is God revealing to us about Jesus, but also how God is revealing Jesus to us. Most of that revelation isn't taking place in church but out of church. Out in the margins where people still do battle with human authority (sometimes thinly disguised as 'divine'!) in their own way. Fight, defy, submit, kowtow, go under, ignore it, &/or hope it'll go away? Maybe set up our own little ersatz authoritarianisms under our own roofs, in our own backyards. In our own sanctuaries. Do our responses to human authority sometimes sound suspiciously like our responses to God? Issue: Is God only our bottom line, or our Top One? Always.