Pentecost 5

Pierre, Pedro, Petrus, Piotr, Peru, Peador, Pathra, Phero, Kephas, Kefa, however your language pronounces his name, St. Peter was quite a guy. His life story is, more or less, told in the Gospels and Acts, and St. Paul mentions him with a mix of respect and defiance. Peter was a fisherman, a working man, but he seems to have owned his fishing business and did alright for himself. He owned a house in Capernaum and was the paterfamilias, his extended family lived with him, including his mother-in-law, who was once healed by Jesus Himself. His wife, who must have been even more of a saint than her husband, is not named in the Bible but the Orthodox call her Febronia, and she is an actual saint in the East. Febronia must have known her husband was prone to following around possible Messiahs, given the fact that he and his friends went out to see John the Baptist on their off days.

Peter had his off days. He tried to walk on water once, and after a decent start, he made like the rest of us when we try to walk on water. He was at one point called Satan by Jesus, who he eventually denied three times. Despite all this, Peter had a couple real wins, so to speak, and we heard about one of them today.

Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” It’s a loaded question really; will Jesus get upset if you tell Him what you’ve overheard? Will He think that what you say is really who you think He is, and you’re shifting the blame on someone else? Well, they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Eli’jah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” Notice that all the answers were wrong answers, but not necessarily disrespectful guesses: who would argue over being considered the second coming of John the Baptist or Elijah or some other great prophet?

But of course the answers are still wrong, and Jesus wasn’t asking His question just for grins. Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Peter’s answer is a big deal, big enough that we have a feast day just for it called the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter, or The Chair of St. Peter in the Roman Church. But, but, as Robertson tells us, “it is clear from the previous narrative that this is not a new discovery from Simon Peter, but simply the settled conviction of the disciples after all the defections of the Galilean masses and the hostility of the Jerusalem ecclesiastics. The disciples still believed in Jesus as the Messiah of Jewish hope and prophecy. It will become plain that they do not grasp the spiritual conception of the Messiah and his kingdom that Jesus taught, but they are clear that he is the Messiah however faulty their view of the Messiah may be. There was comfort in this for Jesus. They were loyal to him.”1

There is also some loyalty and comfort going the other way. “The proclamation of Jesus as Christ is fundamental to Christology and the Confession of Peter, and Jesus’ acceptance of the title is a definitive statement for it in the New Testament narrative….Jesus not only accepts the titles Christ and {in the other Gospel narratives of the same episode} Son of God, but declares the proclamation a divine revelation by stating that his Father in Heaven had revealed it to Peter, unequivocally declaring himself to be both Christ and the Son of God.2

There should be some comfort for us here as well; we needn’t worry about who Jesus is or what eternity looks like for us. In knowing Jesus, in – more importantly – taking up our crosses and following Jesus, we can find rest for our souls, a quiet confidence in the care and loyalty that even God shows for us. In taking up our crosses and following Jesus, we can make ourselves, as the Divine Liturgy says, living sacrifices, laying aside all the junk that poisons our relationship with God and with each other, knowing that our lives are bound up in Christ.

St. Peter had a good day when Jesus asked “But who do you say that I am?” He probably talked about it a lot, Febronia rolling her eyes behind him. Peter would eventually find his cross; even as he was being nailed to it he would insist that his would turned upside down, lest he have the honor of dying as Jesus did. Our crosses might not be so visceral, but we can find them, take them up, and have our good days, declaring to the whole world that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of God.

1Robertson’s Word Pictures;
2Wikipedia, Confession of Peter;

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