Monday, January 18, 2010

The Confession of St. Peter

Today is the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle. Today, we remember Peter's confession "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt 16:16). His answer comes to the most important question we will ever face? "But who do you say that I (Jesus) am?"

To put this in a bit of context, Jesus starts by asking what seems to be a theoretical question: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Jesus is not directly about himself here. He seems to be asking what appears to be some "coffee hour" question. When the Son of Man comes, what are people expecting? The various answers are John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. The people were expecting some form of strong and forceful person as the Son of Man.

After listening to what the people were expecting, Jesus asks, "But who do you say that I am?" This is where Peter, inspired by God, answers.

Now, what did Peter mean by "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?" Well, I don't think he fully understood what he was saying. I believe that Peter was still thinking in terms of a "traditional" Messiah (Christ) who would throw out the hated Romans, reform the Jewish state and restore the Kingship of David. For evidence of this, simply read the rest of the Gospels and look at how often Peter puts his foot in his mouth. Heck, right after saying this, he goes so far as to contradict Jesus when Jesus says that he will have to die and then be raised on the third day (Matt 16:21-24).

So, who do you say that Jesus is?

The Church answers this question with two words: "Savior" and "Lord."

Jesus is our Savior. Americans don't like to hear that we have a Savior, let alone that we need one. We are the people of the Self Made Man. We are the people that pulled ourselves up by our boot straps. We are the people of John Wayne and Gary Cooper at High Noon. We are the rugged individualist. If Pelagius lived in the 20th or 21st century, he would be an American. But we need a Savior! We cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Jesus is that Savior. He saves us from the power of sin and death. By submitting to the ultimate that sin could dish out, Jesus defeats sin and death and we participate in that victory through our baptism and our life in Jesus Christ. We need Jesus like we need oxygen or water.

Jesus asks you "Who do you say that I am?" I pray that you answer: "You are my Savior. I need you.?"

Jesus in our Lord. If Americans don't like to hear that we need a savior, we even less like to hear that we need a Lord. After all, we are all little lords in our own homes. It seems that our national motto is "You aren't the boss of me!" (Witness TEC's answers to the Anglican Communion.) If we admit that we can't save ourselves, we also must admit that we cannot make the decisions in our lives that lead to salvation or lead to union with God through Jesus Christ. We need direction. We need someone to help us know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it? We need a Lord. This does not mean that we live an escapist life where we make no decisions. A large part of the Christian life is coming to know God so well that we make the right decisions by habit and by nature. We can only have God's law and will written on our hearts if we let God do that. By our fallen nature, our hearts are inclined away from God. We need a Lord to bring our hearts and our wills back to the state that God desires.

Jesus asks you "Who do you say that I am?" I pray that you will answer: "You are my Lord. I will follow you."

Jesus is our Savior and our Lord. He saves us from sin and death and leads us to know the Will of God and provides us direction in our lives to know God's will and the strength (through Grace) to do it.

Phil Snyder

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