This Sunday, we read of Jesus bringing his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, to ask him the single most important question in Christianity: “Who do you say I am?” It is crucial, because it invites a personal commitment to Jesus, not just what others have told me but what I truly believe in my mind and heart. How would you answer?
Peter answers correctly :”You are the Messiah (or Christ),” in other words, the anointed one of God, sent by God into the world to carry out his purposes to bring in the kingdom of God and to save his people from evil. Although Peter answered correctly, his concept of Messiah we formed by popular conceptions of a worldly leader who would bring about a new age of prominence and prosperity to the nation of Israel. Jesus’ response to Peter, detailing the path of suffering, death and resurrection that lay before him, did not match with what Peter had been taught. Perhaps overconfident in having identified Jesus as the Christ, Peter decides to correct Jesus’ “faulty” understanding of Messiah. How shocking it must have been, then, for Peter, and for the other disciples, to have Jesus call him a “Satan”(literally, an “adversary”)!
The force of Jesus’ comment indicates that it must truly have been a temptation with which he contended to avoid the suffering and follow a different path more in keeping with the one Peter proposed. This is akin to the third temptation in the desert in which Satan offered Jesus all the nations of the world for merely bowing down and worshipping him for a moment (Matthew 4:8-10). How often do we, like Peter, evaluate situations by human or worldly standards rather than by those of God?
As we enter into our 200th anniversary year at St Philip’s, let us not be lost in all the wonderful activities planned for the time ahead, that we forget to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and continue to acknowledge him before others as the “anointed one of God, who came to save us from our sins.”