Surely it must have been a hot, bright day: it is hard to imagine it being cloudy and drizzly. From the sound of the story, it was just the twelve of them and Him. They had been travelling through the hills north of Capernaum and were now coming “into the district of Caesarea Phillipi,” which all good Jews had recognized as a nest of idolatry since it had been a center of Baal worship in the Northern Kingdom and which now had taken up the cult of the god Pan.
So, on one hand, it was not the most propitious place to ask The Question. As Matthew recounts it, Jesus begins by asking, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” It’s clear from the answers that he is in effect asking them, “who do the people of Israel think is going to be sent by God to rescue them from their distress?” The answers turn out to be one of the prophets, come back again to—maybe this time—actually get the people of Israel to listen to him and restore them to their glory.
Then came The Question: “Who do you say that I am?”
What Peter said, according to Mark’s account, was what all the apostles wanted to say. So Peter said it for them, filling in that awkward, shuffling pause, in which everyone waits for someone else to say what they want to say, but can’t make their lips say. And what Peter said he not only says for the apostles who were there, he says for us. That is also our confession being said by the Galilean fisherman.
When we celebrate the Confession of St. Peter, we don’t celebrate or remember Peter’s life—we have his own feast day on which to do that—but the words he spoke. More importantly, we celebrate again He who asked The Question, and who is the Answer.
In the church year, it’s very appropriate that we celebrate the Confession of St. Peter at this point, in the season of Epiphany. We have all sorts of questions, to most of which we want to provide our own answers. In Jesus we find a Lord who ia both Question and Answer at one and the same time.
This is one of those heady, doctrinal feast days of the church that does not seem to have attracted much in the way of bodily feasting—perhaps because it was the Anglicans who first celebrated it after the Middle Ages had passed. Lest we make this some sort of heady, nerdy, intellectualoid commemoration, let us attach food to it. Given its Anglican origins, and that Simon (“Sandy”) is for his confession rechristened Peter (“Rocky”), it seems very appropriate to whip up a batch of English rock cakes. Enjoy them with tea, conversation, and perhaps some confession.