Summary: We are the confessors of Christ who are called to witness to the world.
“A BIG Responsibility”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
You’ve heard the jokes, someone dies and they meet Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.
In these jokes, Peter is the one who decides whether or not a person or persons will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is from our Gospel Lesson for this morning that the image of Peter as the “pearly gatekeeper” who says “yea” or “nay” to persons trying to enter heaven comes from.
It is from this Gospel Lesson that we get the image of Peter as the “keeper of the keys” to the Kingdom.
But the “keeper of the keys” refers to the authoritative teaching office of the Church, not decisions about who enters heaven.
Those decisions are left to Christ alone.
And the hinge on which that decision rests is on Peter’s confession in this passage of Scripture…not on Peter himself.
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked His disciples.
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.’”
What is Christ saying here?
Peter gave the correct answer…
…the profession of faith, shall we say.
And Peter did not come up with this profession of faith through his own volition.
It was not revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by God the Father!!!
God gave Peter the ability to see the truth.
God gave Peter the ability to accept the truth.
God gave Peter the ability to profess the truth!
It is only through God’s grace that Peter possessed the truth…the “rock of confession of faith in Jesus Christ” upon which Jesus Christ’s Church is built!
The church is not built on Peter.
The church is built on Christ, the Son of the living God, and those who are given this knowledge by grace, from God, and confess it becoming part of Christ’s Church!
On the rock of the Christian profession of faith that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,”
Jesus has built His Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome the power of this confession, of this faith!
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The confession that Peter made is the central faith of the Church.
It is the faith that saves us.
It is the faith that causes us to be members of Christ’s Holy Church!
“I believe…in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord.”
This is not just some intellectual affirmation, but a soul-trust for time and eternity.
Christ is the center, the storm center and the power center: Christ is Christianity!!!
Nothing on earth can reveal this truth and make it known in our hearts.
The only way we come to know this truth is through the grace of God Who comes after us, Who is the Light of the World, the Word made Flesh, “the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
The lights of the earth cannot completely reveal to us, say the Chesapeake Bay on a dark night, but a flash of lightening can.
In an instant, a flash of lightening can make the darkest of the night as light as day!
In the same way, the flash from God Himself is needed in order for us to see the truth which can set us free.
A flash from God, and an answering flash in our souls.
Do we see the flash?
Do we trust its truth?
Do we confess the Deity of Christ?
It is upon this confession that Christ builds Christ’s Church!
In our Epistle Lesson that Jeanne read earlier Peter tells us that Christ is the “living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God…”
…and we, “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.”
“you are a chosen people,” Peter tells us, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
It should not be surprising that it is Peter who later tells us that Jesus is building His Church upon the rocklike confession of faith in Him as the Son of the Living God.
No doubt, we, who were once nothing—are made into children of God through faith in Jesus Christ!