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." 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, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
In 1979 the band Supertramp released their album Breakfast in
When I was young
It seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees
Well they'd be singing so happily
Joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, responsible, practical
And then they showed me a world
Where I could be so dependable
Clinical, intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world's asleep
The questions run too deep for such a simple man
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned?
I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am
I suppose it’s a bit like that for all of us.. as the
The play, Man of La Mancha, is based on the story of Don Quixote… in it there is a rather remarkable dialogue between Aldonsa and Don Quixote… Aldonsa is.. well she’s a floozie.. having slept with every man in the prison. Sometimes she slept with them for money.. other times for pleasure. It didn’t really matter, but she hated herself for it. It is while in this state that Don Quixote comes into her life.. and instead of seeing her as a floozie he sees her as someone of great worth.. and so he attempts to win her over as his own, but she shoots him down at every turn… he begins calling her Dulcinea, which means “my sweet little one” and My Lady. He describes her hair as gold, her hands as ivory and on and on.. thinking none could compare to her. One day he calls to her “Dulcinea, My Lady!” and that’s when she flies off the handle… she rails at him.. I was born in a ditch.. I have no idea who my father is.. and I’ve spent most of my life on my back with a man on top of me… and she concludes by saying to him, “Blows and abuse I can take and give back again, but tenderness I cannot bear… I’m just a whore.” In God’s eyes, her own eyes, and the eyes of the world around her she thought she knew exactly who she was… I’m just a whore.
In our Gospel reading today.. Jesus takes the twelve off by themselves to a place called Caesarea Philippi… and there he asks them a few questions.. first.. “Who do the people say that I am?” The apostles give him a few answers.. John the Baptist.. Elijah.. or a prophet like Jeremiah.. but then he makes the question a bit more personal, “But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the
Messiah, the Son of the living God."… Jesus responds, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”… Simon Peter got the gold star that day.. he answered the question perfectly.. and the answer was not one that he could have known himself, but one that was revealed to him by God… but (and yes, that’s one of those big buts).. Peter could not have known that answer unless he first honestly knew himself.. and he did…
Did you notice in our Old Testament reading that we finished up the story of Joseph and now are moving into the story of Moses? Joseph was a savior of the Jews during the seven year drought.. and over time their numbers grew while living in
. They grew so much that the Egyptians became afraid of them.. made them slaves.. killed their male children.. yet one was safely floated down the river.. Moses. Like Joseph, Moses will also become a savior of the Jews… It will be through Moses that God’s Law will be given and it will become a savior of the people… Do this.. do that.. follow the Law to the letter and God will keep you under the shade of his right hand… do evil and you’re on your own… Another savior of the people was Esther.. but in the end.. we all know how that story worked out… time and again they failed.. they were sent into exile.. returned.. failed again.. sent into exile again.. they were conquered.. beat down.. by the time Jesus came on the scene they were living in the Promised Land.. but only as an occupied country.. this time the Romans. God had given them saviors over the years, but.. in the end they had failed, unable to remain holy in the eyes of the Lord… Egypt
I said that Peter knew who he was.. and he did. He knew the history of his people as well as his own.. and they were all failures of a sort.. like all those that had gone before him, he was unable to remain holy in the eyes of God… I don’t know that Peter ever looked at himself and said with Aldonsa, “I am just a whore,” but I suspect that he might have said something close… and it was only in this knowing of himself.. that he was able to answer Jesus question, “Who do you say that I am?”… Think that’s true?...
Consider again the parable I shared with you last week, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
Did the Pharisee see anything wrong with himself? Did he recognize the fact that he even needed a savior?... No… But what about the tax collector?... “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”… Was his recognition of himself any different than that of Aldonsa, “I’m just a whore… a sinner?”… The same was true with Peter – He knew who he was and so he could answer Jesus.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, this scripture is about Jesus.. it is about who He is and what He is.. but in order for you to know Jesus as the Savior.. as the
Messiah as Peter did.. you must first know yourself, because it is only in honestly knowing yourself that you are able to recognize your need for a savior.
Consider this passage from Matthew’s Gospel… While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” For I have not come to call the righteous.. but the tax collectors.. the failures.. the whores.. the sinners… but before you know you need a doctor, you must first recognize and admit that you are sick… before you know you need a savior, you must first recognize and confess that you are a sinner… and in recognizing your need for a savior.. God will make known to you your Savior… His Son – Jesus...
When Aldonsa declared to Don Quixote, “I am just a whore,” he responded to her, “The past is over and done. We all stumble on the way to maturity. We all look for love in the wrong arms, happiness in the wrong places. But out of it, you’ve become real. You’ve got a heart of immense compassion for the brokenness of others. You are utterly incapable of hypocrisy and I am deeply in love with you.”… the silence follows.. and finally Aldonsa answers, “From this day forward my name is no longer Aldonsa. I am Dulcinea.”.. My Lady.
We come before God and say to him.. I am a sinner.. a tax collector.. a whore.. a ___.. you know what you are.. and in our confession Jesus responds to us… “The past is over and done. We all stumble on the way.. you are My Father’s child.. and I am deeply in love with you.”.. and it is from that day forward we can say to him, "You are the
Messiah, the Son of the living God" and know in our hearts that we are free.. free to love and be loved by God.”
Let us pray… O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who, by the will of the Father, with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, have by Your death given life to the world, deliver us by this Your Most Sacred Body and Blood from all sins and from every evil. Make us always cling to Your commandments, and never permit us to be separated from You. Who with the same God the Father and the Holy Spirit, live and reign, God, world without end. Amen.