O ALMIGHTY God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandedst him earnestly to feed thy flock; Make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same, that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Acts xii. 1 & St. Matthew xvi. 13
Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God
On June 29, 258 AD, Christians of Rome transferred the remains of Peter and Paul to the Catacombs on the Appian way. From that time on, the Roman Christian calendars commemorated that event with a feast.
In our Gospel today we here one of the many stories of our Lord and Peter. In response to Jesus' inquiry to the disciples, Simon Bar-jona confessed Jesus as the Christ, the promised messiah who would save Israel, and as the Son of the Living God. Jesus blessed him and told him that it was his Father in heaven that had revealed this truth to him. Jesus then told Simon that he was "Peter" -- "Petros" in Greek, meaning a stone. Jesus then stated that upon this rock -- "Petra" in Greek, meaning a rock, cliff, or ledge, Jesus would build his Church.
Jesus' use of the words for stone and rock are important in understanding what he was saying and what his disciples would have understood. Peter, by his confession, had demonstrated the essence of the new Church -- faithful members who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Son of God. It is this faith of all the members of the Church that will add up to be the strong rock foundation of the Church. Indeed, a Church so strong that Satan cannot prevail against it. His disciples shall have the "keys" of the Kingdom of Heaven; their faith shall save them and be the key that permits their entry into heaven. More than that, their faith will give them power on earth as the Body of Christ to bind up or loose what they shall on earth and in heaven.
In our epistle we see this prophecy being fulfilled. Harod, in order to gain status and allegiance from powerful Jewish groups, launched a persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. He killed the apostle James with the sword. Observing that this pleased the Jews, he imprisoned Peter with the intent of killing him as well. God had other plans for Peter however. Peter is to become key in establishing the Church in the city of Rome. Therefore, God sent his angel to release Peter. Later, Peter indeed became a "rock" in building the foundation of the Church in Rome -- a Church that eventually would send forth missions throughout the western world.
At Pentecost, Peter was so inspired by the gift of the Holy Spirit, that he emerged as the leader of the Apostles. His gifts of healing, preaching, and leading were key in building a strong foundation for the Church Militant that continues to serve her to this day -- a Church that not even the gates of hell shall prevail against -- a Church that remains as strong as her members remain militant in their faith, actions, and devotion. Amen
Acts xii. 1
ABOUT that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
St. Matthew xvi. 13
WHEN Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Scripture from 1928 Book of Common Prayer
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