Feast of the Confession of St. Peter the Apostle (January 18)   12 comments

Messianic Expectations


The Listed Lections for This Feast Day:

Acts 4:8-13

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

Matthew 16:13-19

The Collect:

Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


I have chosen to list the assigned readings, provide the collect, and proceed directly with my thoughts for the Feast of St. Peter the Apostle.

The assigned portion of Matthew (16:13-19) sounds well and good.  In it St. (Simon) Peter, brother of the apostle St. Andrew, a fellow partaker in the family business (fishing), confesses to Jesus that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” as The Jerusalem Bible renders the Greek text.  Then Jesus makes the following statement:

You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.  And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind of earth will be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

Thus we have a text the Roman Catholic Church uses to justify the existence of the Papacy, as  well as the origin of the popular image of Peter with the keys to Heaven.  Yet I do not care to explore the veracity of the Papal office at this time or place.  It is sufficed to say that I am an Episcopalian, not a Roman Catholic, and to leave the issue at that.

No, I care most about what follows in Matthew 16:20-28.  Jesus predicts his torture, death, and resurrection, but Peter protests, saying “this must not happen to you.”  Then Jesus rebukes Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way, but man’s.”  Next Jesus addresses the apostles, telling them that they must take up their crosses and follow him.

So, why did Jesus speak kindly to Peter in one moment and harshly in the next?

When Peter was in Jesus’ orbit the Romans had occupied the Jewish homeland for nearly eight decades.  Many people harbored expectations that the Messiah would liberate the Jews and expel the occupying forces.  This was understandable, given the circumstances.  It was certainly what Peter hoped.  Yet Jesus was not that kind of Messiah.  The author of the Gospel of Mark understood what kind of Messiah Jesus was:  The Messiah came to die, not to conquer, and his Messiahship became clear in his death.  The technical term for this is the Messianic Secret, and Peter knew nothing of it at the time of his celebrated confession of faith.

Yet Peter understood after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and devoted the rest of his life (until his martyrdom by being crucified upside-down) spreading news of Jesus.  So let us be kind to Peter, for, if we were in his place at the time, we might have misunderstood, also.


JUNE 11, 2010



Modified Slightly on January 25, 2011

Posted June 11, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Bishops of Rome, January 18, Saints of the Bible

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