RCL Year A, Proper 16
Psalm 138; Isaiah 51:1-6; Saint Matthew 16:13-20

Today’s Second Lesson—Saint Matthew’s account of the Confession of Saint Peter—represents the most important turning point in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus has called his disciples, he has taught them, he has taught the large crowds who have followed him looking for the meaning of life, and he has performed miracles before the disciples and the crowds to relieve suffering and to teach that he is the Son of God.

Peter’s Confession, then, represents the meaning Peter has made of the experience of following Jesus. What has Peter learned from the experience, and what has been revealed to him through the occasion of the experience? All that Jesus has done before this point has been instructive, to give Peter and others Jesus’ “example of godly life.”[1] All that Jesus will do in the future will be Jesus’ willing gift of himself as “a sacrifice for sin,” as we prayed in last Sunday’s Collect of the Day.[2] At this turning point, the time has come for Peter’s moment to come to Jesus.

“‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”[3]

The Confession of Peter is a similar turning point also in Saint Mark[4]and in Saint Luke[5]. In those accounts, however, Peter speaks for the other disciples. In Saint Matthew, on the other hand, Peter has been given a special revelation the other disciples have not received.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’”[6] The Confession of Saint Peter that Jesus is both Messiah and the Son of the living God Jesus attributes to a divine revelation to Peter alone, and this revelation makes him the rock on which Jesus will build his church.

You can readily see, I believe, how different Christians find their way to make different claims about Peter and his authority. But Peter’s Confession has been given to the whole church, and it sets a standard for our belief and our fidelity. In all three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—Peter’s Confession shortly precedes the Transfiguration of Jesus. Since Peter has confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, the glory of the Transfiguration ratifies and blesses what Peter has confessed, speaking either for the disciples or to the disciples.

In the First Lesson, we heard the Lord, speaking through his prophet, say that “my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.”[7] Regardless of Peter’s standing above or among the disciples, the standard for our belief and our fidelity is to believe and to see the Lord’s unending salvation and deliverance in what Jesus was about to do. His Passion and Resurrection deliver us from exile and from sin and death. And Peter, speaking for us or to us, emphasizes that association. Jesus’ Resurrection is our salvation forever and our deliverance unending, world without end.

[1] The Collect for Proper 15, BCP, page 232.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Saint Matthew 16:15-16.

[4] Saint Mark 8:27-29.

[5] Saint Luke 9:18-20.

[6] Saint Matthew 16:17-18.

[7] Isaiah 51:6.