Monday, January 18, 2010
The Feast of the Confession of St. Peter: A Devotional Commentary
Just like today, when Jesus walked the earth people had all kinds of ideas about who He was and what He came to do. Some thought He was John the Baptist brought back from the dead. Some thought He was Elijah. Others thought He was just a random prophet. But Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is. Peter says, "You are the Christ!" Jesus tells His disciples not to tell anyone. Why wouldn't He want the disciples to tell everyone? Because just about everyone had false ideas about what it meant to be the Christ. They wanted a Christ that would give them their best life now. They wanted a Christ that would destroy the Romans and stick it to the Caeser-man.
And so did Peter. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ but Peter didn't really know what that meant. Jesus starts telling them about His upcoming crucifixion and Peter pulls Jesus aside, "Whoa! Jesus, I'm not sure you understand what the Christ is supposed to do." Jesus says, "Get out of my sight Satan!"
In the desert, Satan tempted Jesus to be a crossless Christ. Now Peter does the same. All the false religions of this world have crossless christs. When bad things happen many in the church would just like to ignore them and focus on the positive. If death or some type of horrible suffering is brought up, people change the subject. They don't want you spoiling their illusion of what the world is like and what it really means to be a Christian. When people die they want to have a celebration of life. Even those in the pro-life camp often treat miscarried and still born babies as if they weren't real people. Don't mourn their loss, look at your other kids you have and count your many blessings. Refuse to acknowledge that any of these bad things really exist. With the way some Christians talk you would think they were all Scientologists. Popular Christianity is all about a crossless Christ. Often, people object to the crucifix with the dead Christ hanging on it on the grounds that we worship the resurrected Christ. An empty cross is still a symbol of the crucifixion. The cross would still be empty if Jesus were never resurrected. But we like to fool ourselves. We certainly do worship the resurrected Christ and celebrate the resurrection every Sunday. But our resurrection is still future. Our resurrection comes when Christ returns. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are living the resurrected life now in its fullness but only by identifying ourselves with the false christs of this world. To be a true Christ-follower in our current setting is to worship the crucified Christ. To be a Christ-follower in this present age means to live a life of self-denial and to take up your cross. Our self-identification at this time must always be with the crucified Christ. Anything else is a lie of Satan. Through baptism we are joined to Christ and partake in His sufferings.
Jesus warns those who deny Christ when being a Christian is inconvenient for them. If you deny Christ, Christ will deny you. Then Jesus tells the disciples that some of them would not die until after they saw the kingdom of God coming in power. But this happened in an unexpected way as well. This happened in a way that was the exact opposite of what the religious types wanted. Those Jews who wanted a crossless Christ who would destroy their enemies would be utterly devastated. The disciples who were still living at the time saw the Reign of God come with power in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The crucified Christ is the only real Christ. He is the only one who could fulfill the law and He ushered in a new age.
Just before the crucifixion, Peter denied Christ three times. Peter was ashamed of Christ. Peter would not have been ashamed of a christ who came to give him power and destroy his enemies. Peter was ashamed of the real Christ who acted in a completely opposite way from the false christs. Peter was ashamed of the crucified Christ. You show that you are ashamed of the crucified Christ when you hide our faith. But you also show that you are ashamed of the crucified Christ when you speak of the Christian life as one in which real Christians are "happy all the day." You show that you are ashamed of the crucified Christ when you choose to ignore your neighbor's burdens rather than bear them. You show that you are ashamed of the crucified Christ when you expect everyone to pull himself up by his bootstraps. You show that you are ashamed of the crucified Christ when you value political ideologies above your faith. You show that you are ashamed of the crucifed Christ when you demand your rights. You show that you are ashamed of the crucified Christ when you choose to do something else instead of receiving Christ's body and blood in the sacrament. All these things are of the Devil. The Devil wants nothing more than to keep us as far away as possible from the crucified Christ and he usually succeeds. Every time you sin you deny the crucified Christ who says that He has washed you clean.
Where can you find hope since you are such a miserable Christ-denying sinner? The same place that the Christ-denying Peter found hope--in the crucified Christ. Peter was restored after the resurrection and proclaimed the Gospel of the crucified Christ boldly. His restoration did not result in a life of ease. Peter was crucified upside down for his proclamation of the crucified Christ. The crucified Christ is certainly worth getting crucified for. Because Christ was crucified for you and has given you something worth even more than your life.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 12:01 AM