Support the Café

Search our Site

The Confession of St. Peter

The Confession of St. Peter

Today is the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle. It is a striking commemoration, drawing upon the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-19):

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still 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 Messiah, the Son of the living God.’  

Peter’s ‘Confession,’ and it did not matter whom others thought Jesus was. Who do YOU, Peter, say that I am? 

A ‘confession’ is another word for a creed or a belief. We in the Episcopal Church might thus be called the people of the Anglican Confession. More typical usage, the term ‘confession’ is thought of as an acknowledgment of guilt.  

‘Confession,’ as used in Matthew’s Gospel, is a joyous exclamatory statement, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. It explosive, a revelation of the fulfillment of Israel’s longings for a Savior.

Jesus embraces that joy, because Peter, whose name means ‘Rock,’ has expressed the foundational belief on which the new Church would come into being. The passage continues (17-18):

And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…. 

There have been disagreements throughout the history of the church as to whether these verses create a papacy with absolute authority over all Christians. Let’s put that aside and consider instead the essence of Peter’s words and his humility, both here and in other Scriptural passages.

Peter is quintessentially human, full of contradictions, hot-headed, humble, pious, willful, swearing to stand by his Lord, and in the end, denying his connection to Jesus. Fear overcomes him when accused of being a follower of Jesus; and it is not until the descent of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, when Peter and all the disciples are emboldened. 

In fear they hide in the Upper Room. Then, in defiant bravery and astonished love, they emerge from the sweeping wind and flames that encircle them, and show how, indeed, ‘Love casteth out fear.’(1John 4:18)  Peter and the others express new courage based in the love that lifts their minds and souls.

Peter’s Confession that is celebrated today has deep roots in his character in a way that allows us to see our own internal contradictions. Like Peter, the disparate parts of our character are incongruent. We are inconsistent and face internal conflicts. Like Peter. 

The conflicts in Peter’s character make his heroism even more astounding. Consider Luke’s Gospel, and the time Jesus told the fishermen, tired from toiling all night long, to let down their nets again. (Lk. 5:8) They protested, then did as Jesus instructed, and caught so many fish that their nets were breaking, that they had to call for help. When Peter realized the miracle of it all, he worshipped:  

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

What humility in this naked man! (The men fished without clothes on because the waves would drench them, preventing them from doing their work. Doesn’t this detail capture the heart?)

Peter confessed Jesus’ divinity elsewhere. For example, when Jesus began his final journey to the Cross, John 6:22-59, Peter in an even deeper, more fraught and sad and steadfast avowal of Jesus’ promise:

They were in the synagogue in Capernaum, and Jesus has told the many who were listening to him, that he, Jesus, was the Bread of Life (v.51): 

 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

The statement is hard, and Jesus asked the Twelve if they also want to leave.

Peter’s response reverberates through eternity:

 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’

Peter’s stunning statement is the gospels’ most powerful assertion of Jesus as that one place in which we, today, find the eternal truths, the reality of God. To whom else should we go? To no one else. There is no other possibility.

The confession of God among us. We can only pray that Peter’s words are our words as well, all the days of our lives.   



Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Paula L Haenchen

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Feast of the Confession of St Peter. I’ve always thought of St Peter as the guy who was a great model for being a flawed human and yet by the empowering of the Holy Spirit able to do that which we all wish to do as Christians — follow our Lord. Peter shows us that we cannot use our flaws as a means to excuse our inaction. To the contrary, as Christians we are called to pray for and trust in the Holy Spirit who empowers us daily with the ability to confess Christ as our Lord and savior an act accordingly.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café