Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostles: A Devotional Commentary

Acts 15:1-21 Some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them, they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. They, being sent on their way by the assembly, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. They caused great joy to all the brothers. When they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the assembly and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders were gathered together to see about this matter. When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” All the multitude kept silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul reporting what signs and wonders God had done among the nations through them. After they were silent, James answered, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has reported how God first visited the nations, to take out of them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets. As it is written, ‘After these things I will return. I will again build the tabernacle of David, which has fallen. I will again build its ruins. I will set it up, That the rest of men may seek after the Lord; All the Gentiles who are called by my name, Says the Lord, who does all these things. All his works are known to God from eternity.’ Therefore my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Acts 12:1-11 Now about that time, King Herod stretched out his hands to oppress some of the assembly. He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This was during the days of unleavened bread. When he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the assembly to God for him. The same night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Guards in front of the door kept the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side, and woke him up, saying, “Stand up quickly!” His chains fell off from his hands. The angel said to him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” He did so. He said to him, “Put on your cloak, and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He didn’t know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went out, and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. When Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I truly know that the Lord has sent out his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from everything the Jewish people were expecting.”

Matthew 16:13-20 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

Peter and Paul did not always agree. Peter and Paul had different personalities. Peter was killed by crucifixion and Paul was killed by beheading. But both were tortured and killed for the same reason. Both confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Both regarded their mortal lives as being a small price to pay in comparison to their eternal rewards. Jesus laid down His life for them as their Good Shepherd. Peter and Paul laid down their lives for Jesus and as good shepherds laid down their lives for His sheep and their sheep. Peter and Paul both beautified the Good Shepherd's pasture with their blood. Christ does not promise us riches or popularity. Christ promises suffering for His disciples. He sheds His blood for us and gives us His blood to drink so that we will be willing to shed our blood for the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Good Shepherd shed His blood for our sins and gives us true life even when the world kills us.

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