RCL Year B, Proper 16 (Alternate Readings)
Joshua 24:1-2a and 14-18, Psalm 34:15-22, Ephesians 6:10-20, Saint John 6:56-69

Today is the fifth and final installment of the Gospel taken from the sixth chapter of Saint John. I have presented these Gospels to you as a development and as an elaboration of one of the principal themes of Saint John’s Gospel. That theme is stated in the Gospel we proclaim on the Day of the Nativity of Our Lord: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us,”[1] the thematic statement of the Prologue to Saint John’s Gospel.

The import of that theme is this. Jesus, the Word, was from all time, begotten not made, and he left eternity to take on our flesh, to become one of us, so that he might pay the price for our sins, and take us to himself in spirit and in eternity. The sixth chapter of Saint John elaborates and exemplifies this theme over and over again.

The theme reaches a culmination in today’s Gospel when Peter, the chief and exemplar of the disciples, confesses: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”[2]

You know that in the Synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Peter makes a similar confession.[3] I quote Mark: “You are the Messiah.”[4]

It seems to me that Peter making this confession is an essential and absolutely necessary part of the Gospel. All four include it, and we simply do not know much about how one Gospel influenced another except that most all of Mark is to be found in Matthew and Luke. John tells a very different story elaborating the theme of the Word becoming flesh.

If Peter’s confession is both essential and necessary to the Gospel, Peter’s confession is essential and necessary to each one of us. Our experience should lead us, like Peter’s experience, to make a similar proclamation. Full of contradictions, promising to stand by Jesus, failing to stand by Jesus, Peter stands for us. We can honestly identify with him. But making this confession is not something Peter can do for us. It is something we must do for ourselves. And we do it over and over again, each time we recite the Creed and each time we receive Holy Communion. May the Bread and Wine live in us, and may we live in him.

[1] Saint John 1:14.

[2] Saint John 6:69.

[3] Saints Mark 8:27-30, Matthew 16:13-20, and Luke 9:18-21.

[4] Saint Mark 8:29.