‘Who do people say that I am?’ asks Jesus.
Our names are important to us. We all have a name: Nikki, Suzie, Rachel, Richard, Rose. Our name was chosen with care and after much thought and deliberation. We are baptised by name and God knows and loves us by name.
Jesus was also known by his name. His reputation spread far and wide. Yet it is clear that whilst those who flock to listen to him know his name, they don’t understand who he is. The people of Israel were expecting a Messiah, a Messiah who would defeat the Romans ushering in a new era of God’s rule. But Jesus is not this sort of Messiah. Jesus is a Messiah who will usher in a new era of God’s rule not in triumph but in adversity. Jesus is to suffer, die and rise again. No wonder Peter is struggling; no wonder he blurts out the wrong thing.
In his book, ‘Jesus and Peter’,1 Bishop Michael Perham writes: ‘Peter is follower, disciple, evangelist, witness, friend; and as such he is exemplar and encourager. But he is also exemplar and encourager by his human weakness, by his frequent failure to understand, by his habit of saying just the wrong thing, by his struggle, even by his denial. We are drawn to him, inspired by him, because in him so much remained for a long time imperfect and unresolved.’
Peter knew Jesus by name but it took him a long while to understand who Jesus was. The starting point for this discovery was their friendship. St Gregory of Nyssa writes: ‘the one thing truly worthwhile is becoming God’s friend.’ May we encourage one another to grow in our friendship with Christ.
Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector
1 Michael Perham, Jesus and Peter SPCK 2012 p110