Once when Jesus* was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ 19They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’ Luke 9:18-20
According to Luke, Jesus took the disciples by surprise with his question of identity. Their answers are all over the place. They name their favorites from the sacred history of Israel. Peter’s confession is rock-solid and startling, even today. Western Christianity split over what to make of Peter’s confession. The Roman Catholic Church said that the important thing is Peter’s office, and a lineage of tradition and authority that keeps that confession alive in a person and a place (the Pope in residence in Rome). Protestants said, the words are what matter. Wherever a faith community repeats Peter’s confession about Jesus, there the Christian church has its proper foundation. In our ecumenical age of dialogue, this difference is the basis of discussion. The Confession of St Peter begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.