Posts Tagged ‘Peter and Paul’


Those who would remake the Church into what they want and desire, will eventually have Christ Jesus remade into their own image, that is, an idol.  Too many build the Church upon men’s opinions of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord’s question to the disciples, Who do men say that I am? was never intended by the Lord to be an eternal discussion question for so-called Bible studies in too many congregations. Every year, before Christmas and Easter, come the articles debunking some portion or portions of the Bible about Jesus, like clockwork.  Yet, the question,as asked by our Lord, did bring out the rumors about Him and they were just that rumors, conjecture, innuendo.

Jesus himself puts the decisive question, for which the disciples had been waiting: “Who do people say that the Son of man is?” Answer: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Opinions, nothing but opinions; one could extend this list of opinions as much as one wanted. . . some say you are a great man, some say you are an idealist, some say you are a religious genius, some say you are a great champion and hero, who will lead us to victory and greatness. Opinions, more or less serious opinions– but Jesus does not want to build his church on opinions. And so he addresses himself directly to his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” In this inevitable confrontation with Christ there can be no “perhaps” or “some say,” no opinions but only silence or the answer which Peter gives now: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  

From Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s 1933 Sermon on today’s Gospel, preached in the Trinity  Church, Berlin, when Nazism was in the ascendancy and everyone thought this was a consummate good.

Yet, the question is still pointed, and points to us:  Who do you say that I am?   There is a correct answer, the confessional answer, which points us ever in faith to Jesus Christ:  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Peter was declared blessed, not simply right in answering but the confessing answer.  The confession of Faith was not revealed by flesh and blood but “by My Father in Heaven” through every Word Jesus taught and preached and every Word which healed and created faith.  Flesh and blood love to reveal stuff and love to hear about ‘new revelations about the IRS, the NSA, the true confessions of celebrities, the stuff of gossip columns, tabloids  like the National Enquirer, the ‘skinny’ on someone in the news.  All of those revelations are the consequences of breaking God’s Law and appeal to man’s fallen pride, as simply, as “Oh, I’m not that bad.”    The daily news is the revelation of death.  The good news of Jesus Christ is the revelation of life in the midst of death. The revelation of the Lord’s forgiveness in an unforgiving world.  No one confesses Jesus is the Lord except by His Life lived on God’s terms, which means in His Son, Jesus Christ, by His grace and leave, by His Blood shed for them and for us all. 

Peter and Paul had differences between them and much in common.  Both Peter and Paul were Jews.  Peter was an uneducated fisherman, while Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who was taught at the feet of the great rabbi, Gamaliel. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning, the first of the Apostles.  Paul, as he said, was the last of the apostles.  Both were zealous for the Law. Yet, Peter denied Christ.  Paul persecuted the Church and consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of “followers of the Way”.  Both knew they were sinners whom the Law could not save and that Christ alone does atone.  Peter, 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.”  “Behold of a sudden the lover is a liar. (Peter) finds out what he is; he who had thought too highly of himself” (St. Augustine).  Peter’s tears were of godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   Paul was blinded by his sin in the glory of crucified Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul finds out what he is, he who had thought too highly of  himself. Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome, remembering that Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them.

Does the Lord build His Church on the rock called Peter or on the rock of the confession of faith,  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?  This is a false choice. It is built upon Peter confessing Christ as the whole Church is called.  Once we veer away from the Lord’s certain call of the Cross to confess Him as Lord, then we are lost in men’s opinions. Yet,

…it does indeed seem very uncertain ground to build on, doesn’t it? And yet it is bedrock, for this Peter, this trembling reed, is called by God, caught by God, held by God.  “You are Peter,” we all are Peter; not the Pope, as the Roman Catholics would have it; not this person or that, but all of us, who simply live from our confession of faith in Christ, as the timid, faithless, fainthearted, and yet who live as people sustained by God. (Bonhoeffer, same sermon quotes throughout the sermon)

Yes, when a bishop is elected pope, they say to him:  You are Peter. No, y’all are Peter.  Not the rock from Peter, but Peter from the Rock and the Rock is Christ.  “…Paul from Saul, the lamb from the wolf”.  You are from Christ.   You are from the Rock. 

Simon and Garfunkle song from the 60s lyric:

I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries

Simon and Garfunkle’s song is about man alone, like a rock, like an island, avoiding all pain and sorrow.  We live in a “my music, my pictures, my documents” kind of world in which there is no morality, only what I want.  Christ is the rock who bore all pain and sorrow, the Rock from which blood flowed, tears flowed and water flowed.  “My God, My God Why have you forsaken Me?”  Jesus Christ became the utterly alone island bearing our sin, all immorality, which separates us from God and all, the rock, the cornerstone cast out by the builders.  He alone can give the keys of the kingdom to Peter and the whole Church.  The Keys of His reign is forgiveness.“God has always done His greatest deeds in the world through hopeless minorities as seen from human eyes.” Last line of Sasse’s last Letter to Lutheran Pastors.  Like Peter and Paul by whom His grace and peace shone forth into a dark world through the Word of the Lord.  Maybe we are beginning to understand some more of Bonhoeffer’s Sermon of 1933, preached in Berlin’s Trinity Church means:

In the midst of the creakings and groanings of a crumbling and tottering church structure, which has been shaken to its very foundations, we hear in this text the promise of the eternal church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail; of the church founded on a rock, Christ has built and which he continues to build throughout all time.

The gates of hell have prevailed against denominations built on human ideas about Christ, how to implement the truth, as if it were a human tool. The sign of the Church is not the dollar sign, but the Sign of the CrossThe Lord builds His Church through Peter and Paul and all the saints, not through their flesh and blood but by the Confession of Christ, His Word, the Word made flesh and this is the very work of the Holy Spirit.  I will let Pr. Bonhoeffer have the last word of this sermon.

But it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.

Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

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