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It seems that, to try the faith of His followers, or perhaps to strengthen and increase it, where He knew it to be so very weak, our blessed Lord put to each of them a very important question. For when He was come into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" The disciples replied that there were a great many different opinions about Him; that some thought He was John the Baptist; some that He was one of their great prophets, perhaps Elijah, or Jeremiah. But a still more searching question followed this, and one more important to themselves. Jesus said unto them, " But who say ye that I am?" He knew very well that the world in general would not receive Him, but He wished to strengthen and enlighten the faith of His own disciples, that little flock whom He had gathered out of the world. He had already given them grace in some faint degree to believe in Him: they had had faith enough to leave all and follow Him; still they had but a very imperfect idea of the real character and nature of that blessed Being, who had in so wonderful a manner drawn their hearts towards Himself. Perhaps few, if any, among them had ever till now asked themselves what they really thought of their Master, and I dare say that most of them felt not a little troubled when Jesus put the question to them. One of them however, Simon Peter, answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Most likely He made this answer not only in his own name but for all the others also: but however that might be, he clearly showed that he had not followed his Divine Master, seen His miracles, and heard
His words in vain; but had become firmly persuaded in his own mind that He, who was called by some Elijah, and by others John the Baptist, was far beyond them both;—that He was, in very deed, the Son of God. It was a great and a blessed discovery that he had made, and shewed clearly that he had been taught by God; for none are able by nature savingly to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. There can be no doubt about this: for as soon as Peter had declared so plainly his faith in the Son of God, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Simon had been taught, like the rest of his countrymen, to expect, in the long promised Messiah, some great and conquering king, some glorious deliverer of the Jewish nation, who should save them from all their enemies, and make them once more a mighty nation. It must have been very difficult to lay aside all these ideas, and to believe that, in his own poor and suffering Master, he beheld the Desire of all nations, the long promised Messiah. It required great faith to believe this, and great courage to declare it so plainly; and Peter could have obtained this faith and this courage from God only. Let us remember this, my child : we are not able of ourselves to believe in Jesus the Son of God; so to believe in Him, I mean, as to save our souls. But He who enabled Peter to believe in the Christ, the Son of God, will put it into our power to do so too, if we seek His help: and we shall find that our Saviour has blessings to bestow upon those who are His disciples now, as well as on those who followed Him on earth.
E. And did He give Peter any particular reward for declaring so boldly his faith?
M. He did indeed pronounce a very particular blessing upon him, and gave him a striking proof of His favour. He told him, before all the disciples, that He had chosen him to be one of the most distinguished instruments in spreading His religion through the world; that he should have the great honour of first commencing to erect the Church of Christ upon earth; of laying the foundation of it so deeply and firmly, that it should stand fast, as upon a rock, for ever. How must the breast of that warm-hearted disciple have throbbed with joy, when he saw that his Divine Master read his thoughts; that He knew his love to Him, and valued it even far beyond its worth; when he heard Him pronounce those gracious words, "Thou art Peter; and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
E. Yes, and I think you told me once before, Mamma, that the word "Peter" meant a rock? M. I did, and it was a name, as we have just seen, suited to his character, one which he made good by the strength and firmness of his faith. placed simply and entirely on Christ ages," and on that rock which could never be removed, Christ was about to build His Church.
That faith was
"the Rock of
This blessed doctrine, which had just burst from the lips of St. Peter, that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God," was the great truth upon which the Church of the Redeemer was to be built. This is the foundation stone on which all the doctrines of the Gospel rest; and supported by which they shall stand fast for ever and ever. It is on this rock, my
dear child, that you and I must build our happiness both for this world and the next. If we fix ourselves here, we shall be established for ever.
E. I hope the disciples went on very happily after this: it must have been so pleasant to find that Christ approved of them.
M. Their hearts were, I have no doubt, greatly cheered by this gracious declaration from the lips of their honoured Master, and I dare say, they had little idea of the trial of their faith, which was so soon to follow. A bright gleam of sunshine had crossed their path, but the clouds were at hand, and soon gathered around them again. "From that time forth," St. Matthew says, "began Jesus to show unto the disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." The Christ must be rejected; the Son of the living God must be put to death!
E. Yes, Mamma, it must have been very sad to hear Jesus speak of all this; but then, you know, it was all to end well: so I hope the disciples did not make themselves very unhappy.
M. We, my child, know that all this has ended well; we are sure that all this was necessary for Our salvation, and that it was done in fulfilment of prophecy. We remember that Daniel said, "The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself;" and that Isaiah spoke of Him as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows, stricken, smitten of God and afflicted." But the disciples were still filled with Jewish feelings
and ideas. They were ignorant of the real meaning of their prophecies, and fully expected in their Messiah a great worldly prince, who should restore and even exalt the throne of David, and make the Jewish monarchy greater than any which had yet appeared. Full of these expectations, how little were they prepared to hear of their Master's sufferings and death! Even Peter disappoints us now. He had been the first to acknowledge Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God; our Lord had just promised him the keys of heaven and earth; for he was to be the first, after our Lord's resurrection, to open that kingdom to all believers, to the Jew first, on the day of Pentecost, and also to the Gentile, as we read in the interesting account of Cornelius in the tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Yet even Peter, so forward, so distinguished among the disciples of Christ, was at this time so ignorant of the real nature of that kingdom, that, when he heard our Lord talk of sufferings and death," he took him and rebuked him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee." His words sprang no doubt from affection to our Lord, and an earnest zeal for His honour. But our purest affections may be mistaken, and may sometimes lead us astray. And thus on the present occasion did Peter's zeal and anxiety lead him to offend his Master. We can hardly find severer words in the whole of His history, than those which fell from the divine lips of the Redeemer in His answer to Peter's speech. turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things which be of God, but those which be of