"Peter answered, 'You are the Christ.'" (Mark 8:29)
[Readings for the Confession of St. Peter: 2 Peter 1:1-15; St. Mark 8:27-9:1]
Peter confessed Jesus accurately. To confess is to say back what you have heard. The signs all spoke the same thing - Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, God's anointed One sent to save His people.
When Peter said "Christ," he likely imagined a king, a military leader, one who would gather an army and with the power of God restore Israel to its former greatness. Perhaps Peter was already collecting his swords for the holy war, ready to establish the kingdom of God by force. That's why Jesus warned His disciples not to tell anyone about Him.
Jesus began to teach them that the way of the Christ is the way of the Cross. He must suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and on the third day rise from the dead. This wasn't the kind of Christ that Peter had in mind. Peter pulled Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, but Christ-talk that isn't Cross-talk is devil's talk. "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." There is no Christ without the Cross in understanding God's grace and gift for us through the Good Shepherd.
Religion that does not include the centrality of the sacrifice on the Cross by Jesus Christ, cannot save from sin and death. Great displays of power and might, sentimental journeys in seas of emotion, concerts of uplifting music may thrill the masses, but they do nothing to deliver us from our ultimate enemies sin, death and the devil. Only a crucified and risen Jesus can do that. Only a Jesus with a baptismal burial can do that. Only a Jesus with Body and Blood to give as food and drink can do that.
Without the Cross, Peter the confessor becomes Peter the denier, a spokesman of Satan. Without the Cross, Christianity becomes a devilish deception. To save your life is to lose it in the life of Jesus. To follow Jesus is to die with Jesus, to be united with Him in His death and life. There is no other way. There is no other Christ.
Peter, too, would learn this. After Jesus's resurrection and the Spirit's outpouring, Peter would confess Jesus as the Christ before multitudes in Jerusalem at Pentecost. He would confess Jesus as the Christ in his own death, crucified upside-down in honor of his crucified Lord.
"Dear Father in heaven, as you revealed to the apostle St. Peter the blessed truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, strengthen us in that same faith in our Savior that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever." (The Collect for the Confession of St. Peter)
What grace and peace your Creator-Father gives through the Cross of Christ for all who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Have a blessed 2012.