You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mt. 16:16).After that bold confession, Jesus goes on (in Matthew) to give Peter the keys to the kingdom, or so it seems.
What that confession does is place Jesus at the center of the conversation. As Christians, we are followers of Jesus, the one who is the Messiah and who is Lord. If you've read John Dominic Crossan or Marcus Borg, you know that the titles of Jesus have political connotations. That is, the early Christians were making political statements by suggesting that Jesus was Lord and Son of God -- for these were titles given to the emperor.
There is another aspect to this conversation and that has to do with the scandal of particularity. That is, if Jesus is as Colossians suggests "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), does his gender or ethnicity have some definitiveness to it? Could God have been just as easily incarnated as a woman? Or some other ethnicity?
On the second issue, we must be careful, because over time anti-Semitism did creep into Christian conversations, and Jesus' Jewishness was diminished. That has been restored.
But as for the maleness -- what does it say about Jesus, about God, and about humanity?
Elizabeth Johnson, a Christian feminist theologian, writes:
The gender of Jesus has been taken to be the mode or paradigm of what it means to be human. This is interpreted literally to mean that maleness is closer to the human idea than is femaleness. Proof of this attitude can be seen in reactions to the hypothetical question about the incarnation. The Word became flesh: God who is beyond gender became a human being. Could God have become a human being as a woman? The question strikes some people as silly or worse. Theologically, though, the answer is Yes. Why not? If women are genuinely human and if God is the deep mystery of holy love, then what is to prevent such an incarnation? But taking for granted the implicitly inferiority of women, Christian theology has dignified maleness as the only genuine way of being human, thus making Jesus' embodiment as male an ontological necessity rather than a historical option. (Elizabeth Johnson, Consider Jesus, Crossroad, 1990, p. 107).
So, if Jesus reveals God to us -- how do we take his maleness?
Note on the picture -- this statue of the crucified woman by Almut Lutkenhaus-Lackey is found in the garden at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto.