Summary: Why is knowing Jesus as the Christ such a "blessed" thing?
Confession of St. Peter
Blessed in This Confession
King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, was once touring a Berlin prison when a group of prisoners fell to their knees in unison before him to plead their case. I’m innocent, I tell you. I’ve been falsely accused. I’m a victim of circumstances. I didn’t commit a crime. They all proclaimed their innocence in one way or another; all but one of them, a man who remained silent until Frederick called to him.
“And you sir, why are you here?” Frederick asked. “Armed robbery, Your Majesty,” was the man’s only reply.
“And are you guilty?” Frederick asked.
“Yes sir, indeed I am, Your Majesty. I deserve the punishment I’m getting.”
“Yes,” said Frederick, “you certainly are.”
Then Frederick turned and summoned the guard.
“Release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it.”
The man’s answer to Frederick won him his freedom. But he had to wonder as he was giving it. It might have sealed his fate. It could’ve just as easily confirmed his sentence and kept him in prison for the rest of his term.
And it occurs to me this morning that the disciples were facing a similar dilemma with Jesus’ line of questioning. Just consider their answers. Jesus asks about the various opinions that are circulating concerning the identity of the Son of Man and they give the safe answers. They offer the speculations of everyone else. So Jesus gets a bit more pointed in his line of questioning. “And what about you; who do you say I am?” You can almost imagine the squirming that was going on as they realized he wanted their thoughts on who He was; which is what makes Peter’s confession such a bold one. What if he’s missed the whole point of Jesus’ teaching? What if he’s wrong in what he believes? He’s just made Jesus out to be God in the flesh, his savior, the object of his worship and praise. If he’s wrong he might very well expect a displeasing reaction, divine retribution, God’s wrath.
But then comes the comforting reaction, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 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.” You are blessed in having this truth revealed to you, blessed because you are grounded in The Rock, Jesus Christ, as Savior where the True Church is found.
The September 14th, 1992 issue of Christianity Today had an article written by Tim Stafford where he recounts a conversation he had with of a friend of his, a Pastor Bilynskyj. Pastor Bilynskyj told Tim that at the start of each of his confirmation classes he asks his students to guess the number of beans that are in a jar, and on a big pad of paper he writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: Their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right. Then Bilynskyj turns to the list of favorite songs and asks. "And which one of these is closest to being right?". Quite naturally the students protest that there is no "right answer"; a person’s favorite song is purely a matter of taste. They’re right, of course, and Pastor Bilynskyj points out the difference between truth and opinion. It’s essential for his students to know the difference, for it’s at this point that he presses on to his main concern, "And when you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or choosing your favorite song?" According to Bilynskyj he gets the same answer from old and young alike. Choosing one’s faith is more like choosing a favorite song. When Bilynskyj told Tim this, he couldn’t believe it, so that continued. "And after they say that, do you confirm them?" "Well," smiled Bilynskyj, "I first try to argue them out of it."
It’s the lie that’s being told today – that any way will do. But Pastor Bilynskyj knows the truth Peter confessed, and now, thankfully, so do his students. All religious expressions and philosophies are not equally true. And even within the Christian Church the pursuit of doctrinal truth and purity is an important issue. It’s a conviction on our part that sometimes brings other Christians to conclude that the LCMS is too exclusive or that we think we’re better than them. Let me just say that I’ll be the first to admit that at times we come off with a certain snooty pride that’s less than becoming. But at the same time let me affirm that it’s irresponsible and potentially dangerous to consider the beliefs and practices among fellow Christians that stray from the clear word of God as “no big deal.” It isn’t insignificant when these easily give the false impression that our salvation is partly our work together with Christ “There’s but one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:5). And in the first lesson today we hear Peter say it again: “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. ‘He is the stone you builders rejected which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in none else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”