Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
I'm sure many of you have heard today's gospel passage read countless times. And many times you'll have been asked to consider: Who do you say Jesus is?
One of the things I've been reflecting on this week is - how much easier it would be if we didn't see Jesus as the Christ, the son of the living God.
Somehow, Jesus being like John the Baptist or one of the prophets takes the pressure off us.
Because that Jesus is more like us. Prone to mishap. Full of mistakes. Not perfect.
And that kind of Jesus is easier to live up to.
It's once we see Jesus as the Son of God, that we run into trouble.
Because that allows us no leeway.
That Jesus, the Son of God, demands much more of us.
We've been discovering, as we move through Matthews gospel, how Jesus reveals the nature of God.
A God who is compassionate.
A God who weeps when people suffer, through depression, through injustice, through war and violence.
A God whose heart is broken in the pain of the world.
Proclaiming Jesus the Son of God demands that we, too, try to be like the one who reveals God to us.
Proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God demands that we are compassionate, that we hurt when others hurt.
Proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God demands that we follow Jesus' example, we push boundaries, upset those in authority and stop at nothing until justice prevails and until peace becomes a reality.
No wonder we are slow to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God.
Because that proclamation changes our lives.
That proclamation is not just about who we say Jesus is.
It is also about who we are prepared to be.
That is why Jesus put Peter on the spot.
Went from "Who do people say I am?" to "Who do you say I am?"
Jesus wanted to know if Peter was ready to step up, ready to be handed the keys of the Kingdom.
Peter's response demonstrated that he was ready.
"You are the Christ, the son of the living God."
Jesus was satisfied by this response that Peter got it - that not only did he know who Jesus was - but that he knew what it meant to be a follower of Christ, the Son of God.
We know that Peter didn't always get it right.
Far from it.
But, often, the reason he fell short was because he was always prepared to step up.
Peter doesn't hang back- in anything.
And so we read in the gospels of his failures as well as his triumphs.
And anyone who is willing to try to serve God will have times when they don't get it quite right.
But God honours intentions - those who try rather than those who hang back for fear of getting it wrong.
Our response to Jesus question: "Who do you say I am?" is a call to action.
It is not enough to profess Christ.
Our actions must mirror our words.
But the gospel is not a call this morning for is to feel bad about our response to Jesus' question.
It is not a call for us to focus on all the times we've managed to get it wrong or failed to witness and serve Christ as we should.
Rather, it's a call to remind ourselves why we do what we do.
Why, in our everyday, we do certain things in certain ways.
Why we are so affected by the plight of others.
Even why we despair at the state of our world.
And why we hope and believe that things can be different.
Because we know that Jesus is the Son of the living God, we are moved to believe in and to work for peaceful and loving communities here and throughout our world.
We are moved to pray for and believe in justice for all God"s people - and to do whatever we can to make that a reality.
Jesus, the Son of the living God demands that, even and especially in the darkness of our world, where light seems scarce and where hope is fragile, that we who confess Christ as Lord keep hope alive and keep on working for peace and for healing for all God's children.
You are the Christ,the Son of the living God.
A statement of faith and a call to action.
Foundation stones and building blocks in the kingdom of God.
I challenge all of us this week to think deeper about our profession of faith.
Whether that profession be, as in baptism, I believe in one God, Father, son and Holy Spirit, or whether it be You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
I challenge us all to think about those professions of faith and how they affect how we see the world today.
Through the lens of hope.
Because as soon as we profess faith, we are also embracing hope.
The hope that all the darkness and evil that we see in our world, the hope that all the injustice and suffering can be overcome by a God who works through us to bring love into the world.
Our profession of faith opens us even more to grieve for all that is wrong in the world but, in our grief, to have hope that the power of God's love will have the last word.
And that, in the meantime, you and I can make a difference every day by living in that love, not just proclaiming faith but living it out.
We, who profess faith here are compelled and empowered to live out that faith in the world we serve every day.
Thanks be to God.