Who Do You Say That I am?

The Pas           The Confession of Peter

Year C

20 January 2019

Acts 4:8-13

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

Matthew16:13-19

God of salvation, the splendour of your glory dispels the darkness of earth, for in Christ we see the nearness of your kingdom. Now make us quick to follow him, and eager to proclaim the good news of the gospel. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

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It’s interesting, looking at the passage from Acts, today, how Peter responds to the questions of the Elders of the People.

It’s interesting because, for Peter, for the disciples, they’re still living in the first days of Christianity.  The Holy Spirit has only recently blown through the followers of Christ, the Sanhedrin and the elders of the temple are the same as those who decided that life in Roman occupied Israel would be better for all if Jesus weren’t here.

But here is where we find ourselves. Here, Peter and the disciples still reside in Jerusalem. They still attend the temple, to offer sacrifice, but they also share the love and the teachings of Jesus with the rest of the sages and teachers who gather in the porticos and who learn and debate wisdom with each other.

So, Peter responds to the question of healing a man whose whole life was begging in the doorway to the temple by invoking the name of Jesus.

The previous chapter tells us: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:1-8)

Now, like most of the people who come and go from the temple on a regular basis, they knew this man was there, he’s been there for years. And, then, how many of them would have just walked on by, as we do to those who we see and then pass by every day, in our community.

But, Peter and John didn’t do that. Instead, they looked at the man with love, with Jesus’ love and compassion. They looked at him and gave him the only thing they could, the grace of God found in the healing name of Jesus.

And in the name of Jesus, a man born lame was healed. In the touch of Peter, who raised him up, the man was able to stand, and for the first time in his life. And in such joy as only the name of Jesus can give, he was able to jump and praise God for the miracle of God’s grace and love in his life.

And this brings us to today’s passage, where, once again, Peter and his companions are brought before the elders and teachers of the people to be quizzed about how this is done, and who is responsible.

And when we then look at our own lives, it’s remarkable about how much we rely upon the name of Jesus, in and for our lives. It’s remarkable about how, in the embodiment of God in the person of Jesus how God’s love and grace is able to influence us, even today.

And this is remarkable because of the way that Peter, coming from the fishing community by the sea of Galilee answers the theological experts of the day.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:8-10)

In the midst of an atmosphere of suspicion, in the middle of the early days of the church, when even the word Christian hadn’t yet been coined, it is the love and grace found in the name of Jesus that brings salvation, healing, and hope to those on the fringes of society.

And we know that Peter, and his life of faith has had its own rocky road.

We know his history. How he was called to follow Jesus from the decks of his own fishing boat. How he learned from Jesus that a life of faith is not something that can be picked up or set aside as the mood moves.

How even after he couldn’t keep his word on the night that Jesus was arrested, and he denied knowing Jesus as Jesus predicted, that Jesus, afterwards reinstated Peter to the love and grace of God on the shores of the sea of Galilee. Peter, then comes full circle: from his initial call to follow to being called to lead, and to protect, to guide and to love.

And in that moment of God’s grace, of God’s love, Peter is tasked with being the leader of Jesus followers after the ascension, after the Holy Spirit has changed the name of the game, and gifted all believers as they are able.

Now we find Peter, the leader of the community before the Sanhedrin who wants to know what his authority is, in the same way they asked by what authority Jesus performed his miracles.

And, so, Peter answers them. He’s abrupt, he’s direct, he’s straight forward when talking about the power of Jesus name he says: “12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

And we see that, this isn’t an easy declaration for Peter. Rather its one he’s grown into since the days of hauling fish nets, to today.

Even when Jesus is asking the disciples, in today’s gospel who do you say that I am? It’s Peter who is moved by the Holy Spirit to declare that Jesus is the Messiah. (Mt 16:17)

So, then, what does the miracle performed by Peter, trusting in the love and grace of God, what does this mean for each one of us, today?

How does the love of God, the name of Jesus move and heal us to praise God with our heart, mind, soul, and strength? How will we respond?

How does each of us respond to the call of Christ to live and to serve God’s people? How do we respond to the call of Christ, the declaration of the identity of the Messiah, the Son of God, the knowledge that it is in that name that we are saved?

What do we do with this information, in and for those all around us? How do we respond to the call of Jesus to follow?

Peters assertion, before the elders, today, that it is by the name of Jesus that we are saved. It is by Jesus’ name that the beggar at the door is healed, and able to give praise to God because of this name, and because of Peter’s faith that he is healed.

So, how will we respond? What will we do with Peter’s assertion, Peter’s journey of faith Peter’s belief and trust influence each of us?

How will we, in our lives, open ourselves, our hearts, our lives to Jesus, to the call of Christ, today?

From the moment that Jesus wanders by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and uttered those famous words to Simon and Andrew, to James and to John: “follow me”, Peter’s healing a man who was unable to walk, we see that Peter has grown in his love, in his trust, in his abilities, and in his belief.

And yes, Peter makes mistakes along the way. When Peter denies that Jesus needs to go to the cross, for you, for me, and for all who believe, or have believed throughout history, he is set back and needs to remember, we need to remember to trust that God has a plan, and in that plan, Jesus is the only name through which salvation is possible.

But with that same level of trust, Peter’s life has taken on the shape that Jesus saw from the beginning. He has become the one who is able to lead the followers of Christ, into this new era.

When Peter blurts out Jesus identity as the Messiah, today, in the gospel, we see Jesus respond with ““Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Mt 16:17b-18)

In the gospel, we see that God has great plans for each one of us. In the lesson from Acts we see how Peter has lived into God’s vision for his life, how he responds to being called to be a leader amongst men.

The question, for each one of us, then is how will we respond to the call of Christ, the love of God in and for our lives? How are we called to live out the love of God for all of creation, through our lives? In our lives?

At the same time, in looking back at each of our lives, how have our lives been changed by the saving name of Jesus?

We can see how and where Peter’s life of faith has grown. We can see how and where he assumes the mantle of leadership that brings him to the temple, today, that brings him before the leaders of the temple as he explains how a man who is lame is able to leap for joy and praise God with his body and with his words.

So, in that sense, let us pray together a prayer that guides me, every day, that leads me to continue to trust that with God’s guidance, with Jesus love, we are following in the footsteps of the early disciples.

The prayer says “Lord God, you have called your servant to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us, and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

And to this, with us all in mind, and knowing that God seeks to inspire us in unlikely ways to change the world around us, all I can say, all we can say to such a prayer, prayed with all of our hearts is “Amen.” d

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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