The lectionary splits this text over two weeks, but let’s live in the moment and experience it all together, like it happened. “Who do you say that I am?” “Well,” think the disciples, “what should we say? Some say you’re Elijah. Some say you are John the Baptist.” But Jesus pushes harder. “Who do you say that I am?” Peter instantly blurts out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Wow! If that isn’t enough to blow you away Jesus says Peter didn’t figure this out by himself but rather it has been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. God has come to dwell with us, talking and walking with us, in human form, revealing God’s love and Himself to us on the cross.
That is where things take a turn, and Peter reverts to his impulsive human habits. “Oh, no! Don’t do that Jesus! That’s not such a good idea. Let’s go back and hang out on the mountain with Elijah and J-Bap. Or go back and heal people in the villages. Anything but dying on a cross!” Jesus rebukes him, “Get behind me Satan!” God has a plan to save you, a plan that none of us could ever carry out. God’s plan entails Jesus dying, on the cross outside the city gate, because we will insist on putting Him to death for forgiving sins and discarding our legal system. As the terrible tenants thought, “Let’s get rid of the Son and have the whole vineyard to ourselves.”
God’s plan works because Christ comes back from the dead. He won’t stay dead, and as He promised, He won’t abandon you. He comes back announcing the forgiveness of all your sins, just like before.
Christ restores Peter and commissions him, and us, to go and tell the story to others, to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Fact: you can’t get rid of Him. Fact: Jesus won’t stay dead. Fact: Jesus is the Son of God. Fact: He reveals Himself, and God, on the cross outside the city gate. Fact: He comes back to reveal Himself to you and give you faith in Him crucified and risen for you. Christ puts an end to all your attempts to earn salvation by keeping the law; all of your self-justification schemes are kaput as God puts an end to the law in Christ and raises you up out of the font as a new being, forgiven and sanctified for His Son’s sake! You have God’s favor, not by your merit but because of His gracious and merciful love for you and His decision to be your God and make you righteous for Christ’s sake!
Peter would have messed it all up, just like you and me. God knows what He is doing, and He has already done it all for you. Now, because He has revealed Himself to you, in faith you can answer His question: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You are my Savior, my Lord, and my God.” And you know who you are: His forgiven sinner and righteous child for all eternity. Amen. Make it so for all of us, Lord.