Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Eyewitness of St. Peter

Today is the day the Church remembers the Confession of St. Peter.

"Who do you say that I am?"
"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."

Flesh and blood may not have revealed that confession but thankfully Christ did reveal himself in flesh and blood. For all the things St. Peter is remembered - ready at the quick with a word and a sword, betrayal and restoration, confession and martyrdom - one of the most important things that needs to be mentioned in any list of St. Peter's "accomplishments" is this: eyewitness.

I find it delightfully coincidental that one of the Greek words used most often for eyewitness happens to be the same word we get autopsy from. That was St. Peter's vocation. An autopsy of Jesus, even before He was crucified. Peter, along with several of the others was, an eyewitness from the beginning. Call it CSI: Jerusalem. Go ahead. Interview him. Ask him the tough questions. Put St. Peter on the witness stand. Follow the evidence. It leads you to the autopsy of Jesus: dead and alive. That's the report. On Friday Peter saw Jesus go off to his death. On Sunday morning he saw the empty tomb. And on Sunday evening Jesus stood before Peter scars and all. Locked doors are no problem for the one who unlocked heaven by His death and destroyed the power of hell. Son of the Living God indeed!

St. Peter says as much in the second epistle that bears his name (and his authorship).

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Today we can thank the Lord - not only that St. Peter was one of those men carried along by the Holy Spirit to write down his autopsy report of Jesus' live and ministry, death and resurrection - but also that the Lord who gave St. Peter that confession is the same Lord who gives us that same confession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." For we have not followed cleverly devised myths either.

Today, St. Peter's confession is the church's confession, our confession. And the gates of hell will not prevail against you either for they could not withstand Christ. That's the remarkable thing about the Confession of Peter - Jesus is not the wise moral teacher everyone loved (then and now). He is Lord and Savior. Or as C.S. Lewis so famously said:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. Mere Christianity, book 2, chapter 3.

That's exactly what St. Peter did. That's his confession. "You are the Christ!" That's our confession. A blessed Day of St. Peter's Eyewitness to you all.

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