Feast of the Confession of St. Peter
Christ Church, New Haven
January 17, 2016
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Grace and Peace be unto you, Christ Church.
Today, Jesus takes us into one of his brief and loaded proclamations. Within these seven verses, there are many topics to discuss: Jesus' declaration of sovereignty on polytheistic Rome, King Philip's folly in honoring the unknown gods of his oppressor, the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and the controversial debate of who is the rock... Nevertheless, I am compelled by the Holy Spirit and the limitation of time to discuss Christ's solemn vow of friendship and His spiritual authority.
Could you imagine having Jesus Christ as a friend? I'm certain that I would be afraid, I would be in a state of humility- always in fear of speaking to Him. There is a timid nature to me that I cannot disguise. I earnestly despise when professors do such things, ask spontaneous questions or prey on the naïveté of their students... as if there aren't enough chatterboxes and overachievers within the course. I guess it's the nature of being a professor, one who brings out excellence in his or her students.
Within Jesus' initial question he inquires, " Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" The disciples ramble, "Some say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah.. or some other prophet." If you abandoned your family to follow a man for days, for months, for years, without any significant monetary provision into the wilderness ... And the best you can say is "some." Some in reference to people. .. I heard from people that you're a prophet. The usage of some in this text can manifest as an unspecified and a self-exclusive pronoun which neglects the speaker. The speakers are the disciples. In other words, the disciples did not include themselves in recognizing the identity of Christ.
The irony of Christ's initial question is that the answer is in the question. The phrase "Son of Man" refers to the prophet Daniel's apocalyptic vision in the Book of Daniel 7:13-14 which reads ... before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. The phrase "Son of Man" indicated that Jesus was the Messiah and that he was truly a human being. But the disciples could not understand the loaded and symbolic language of Christ. Their response was insufficient.
One thing about Jesus is that he has a tendency of making things clear and concise, a tendency of getting to the point. He further interrogates those who have sacrificed their lives to follow by asking, "BUT who do YOU say I am?" And here is Simon Peter, an uneducated and an ordinary man, a fisher man from Galilee, accurately answering the question of Christ. Peter confesses, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
In response, Jesus blesses Peter... “Blessed are you, Simon... For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but the Father in heaven.” What! God speaks to His people and through His people... The Father Above reveals Truths to those who believe in His Word. American theologian Dale Moody in his critical reflection entitled, The Word of Truth indicates that Christianity is a religion that is founded on revelations as well as reason, knowledge, discernment, and wisdom. Moody further defines revelation as a dialogue between God's biblical language, God's Word, and man's faith. Throughout his reflection, Moody emphasizes that revelation always implies reception. In other words, Peter's confession was the reception of God's Word. Thus, reception is an act of faith. Doesn't this scenario sound familiar, a verse from the New Testament, Paul's Letter to the Romans in 10:17...Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. If we identify yourselves asChristians, followers of Christ. We therefore follow the Word of God.
From Peter's confession, Jesus solemnly grants spiritual authority to His friend, "I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades, the gates of Hell, will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." He appoints Him as a leader and bestows upon Peter the keys to His kingdom. You only give the keys of your house to those who you trust. Peter and Jesus were friends. Friends who understood the truth of their identities. Jesus was such a friend that he blessed and forgave Peter knowing that he would shortly deny him. Yet Jesus shared his divine blessings with His friend, even the cross.
Jesus was searching the hearts of His disciples for a leader, Christ Church you are in a similar process: searching for a rector. May I remind you of God's revelation to Samuel, the Lord said, "People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." As the choir beautifully sang Psalms 23 we heard the Confession of David, "The Lord is my shepherd." King David was a man of humble beginnings. So too was the Apostle Peter, a man after the heart of Christ.
Now the question is: What does Peter's Confession have to do with us? While reflecting on the universal Church, a Hildan asked, how can people invest their achievements and lives into something that they do not believe in? How can they follow Christ for years and not confess Him as Lord? I was not alarmed when he asked me that question, in fact, I was grateful to God that he too recognized. Consciously, I prayed that God would provide him an answer. The reality is that some people follow Jesus and have no idea of who he is.
Christ Church, if Jesus asked you the same question, "Who do you say I am?" What would you say? Or if someone interested in the Christian faith asked you, "Who is Jesus Christ?" What would you say to them? I'll give you this clue, your answer impacts the events which are to follow.
As in the words of the Te Deum laudamus, We Praise Thee, Jesus "didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers."
God Bless, Christ Church.