As we listen to today’s gospel lesson, we may find ourselves cheering on Simon Peter as he “gets it right,” naming Jesus as Messiah. Go Peter: first of the disciples, longest to be traveling with and witnessing all the fullness of God that is Jesus! You’ll have your human failings and stumble soon enough, but for now, you got it Peter.
Yet if we focus too much on Peter’s passing moment of triumph, we risk missing the real show. For Peter and all of the disciples are but witnesses to Jesus, witnesses to the one who is really in the spotlight. Jesus, who asks the disciples who people are saying that he is. And the disciples respond that some say he is John the Baptist, some that he is Elijah, some Jeremiah or another one of the prophets.
Maybe we can imagine Jesus, hearing their responses, then looking sideways at them, or perhaps directly in the eye, and asking, “but who do you say that I am?” Yes, yes, who do we say that Jesus is? An amazing teacher, sure. A remarkable healer, definitely. Prophetic in speech and demeanor - certainly. Yet none of these terms can fully get at the heart Jesus’ identity. Only one word does that:
The One foretold from ancient times who would break ancient schemes of devilry and destruction and usher in an era of peace.
The One who would deliver us from our sins and make of us a new creation, a creation pleasing in the eyes of God and worthy of our ancestry; an ancestry of blessings and covenantal promises onto which we have been grafted by the new covenant power of Christ on the cross; ancestry rooted in God’s promises given to Abraham and Sarah, who as we hear again in Isaiah are the “rock” and the “quarry” from which we were hewn and dug. Even when the earth and heavens have passed, we hear in Isaiah, still the salvation work of God will endure.
The salvation work of God fulfilled in Jesus who made headlines as he walked the earth, and fulfilled in the even deeper promises made possible by his death and resurrection.
So, we proclaim with Peter, “yes, Jesus, you are the Messiah.”
And sometimes we may, like Peter proclaim this truth with hearts convinced and faith deeply in place by the grace of God, but when we lose our ways and forget; when we get caught up in earthly matters and all of our stuff that doesn’t really matter, the truth of Christ’s Messiah work remains unchanged. God in Christ keeps doing the saving work even as we ebb and flow, rising and falling in an unpredictable tide that is counterbalanced, encompassed and redeemed by the staying Power of the Messiah.
These are times in which to cling to such deep Truth. Worldly powers – be they in neighborhoods or nations, are showing just how thinly they are stretched, and unbalanced they can be. Our schools are in flux, our homes are in flux, a pandemic encircles us, and unrest ahead of a national election looms before us. These are times when human nature looks to cling to something. If we are not careful, we may cling to the wrong things – to petty tropes and dangerous conspiracies and lies.
So this gospel lesson that looms before us today comes at just the right time to remind us of where we are truly rooted and by whom. It comes at just the right time to remind us where the true spotlight should always be pointed: to Jesus.
By God’s power, the very Power of Heaven, we, too, can come to know who this Jesus is, and for what purpose he gave his life and breath. For the saving of the world. For our saving, too.
Thanks be to God.