The journey northward

The journey northward

The great Confession. Passion foretold.

(The Gospel History, Section 71)

And Jesus went forth and his disciples, into the villages of Cæsarea Philippi; and in the way, as he was praying alone, he asked them, saying, Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they answering, told him, saying, Some say John the Baptist; but others say Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or that one of the old prophets is risen again. And he asked them, But who say ye that I am? Simon Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 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. Then charged he the disciples, and commanded them to tell no man that he was the Christ.

The Giving of the Keys to St. Peter, By Perugino

The journey northward

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book III, Poem XLVI)

To Cæsarea Philippi they walked,
The Lord and His disciples; the flowery ways
Of Galilee left behind, confronted them
The towering peaks austere of snowy Hermon:
The Lord was sorrowful; these difficult paths
Augured too well the way that lay before
His feet to traverse; nor, that wound, had it healed,
The disciples left who rent themselves from Him,
So tender to His own. Now, as they went,
He stepped aside and prayed—where else for Him
Was any healing found save in that fount
Eternal in the heavens, the Father’s breast?

Did Christ the tale unfold of how, for those,
He had ministered and laboured, giving all,—
Wisdom and tenderness as daily bread
To them poor, feeble; of how the hour had come
When He gave Himself to them, withholding nought,
Nay, offering of His flesh to satisfy,
And—they would none of Him! Prayed the Lord then,
For them who had not forsaken Him; that their faith
Should bear that strain of anguish He foreknew?
His countenance lightened, did the Lord return
To them who sate in awe—as men that mourn,
Called to a funeral,—aware of Grief,
His old acquaintance, sitting with their Lord?

“Who do men say that I, the Son of man,
Am?” asked He them: they paused to recollect
Various reports which had reached them. “Some men say
That Thou art John the Baptist come to life:
Others believe Elijah, sure, is come;
Was’t not foretold? While other some perceive
That Thou goest sorrowful in the ways of men
And presagest woes: but all men talk of Thee,
And some maintain that Thou that Prophet art
Whom Moses, having vision, promised men,
To give them laws and lead them.” Unmoved, He heard;
And turning His godlike aspect full on them,—
“But who say ye that I am?” demanded He.

Ah, well for Simon Peter! Straight as clap
Of thunder follows lightning, out spake he—
Thank God, that there was one with utterance blest!—
Thou art the Christ, Son of the Living God”!
Men have moved mountains, wrought stupendous works,
Have searched all depths, ascended awful heights,
Have loved, and given their bodies to be burned;—
But, see, the Christian soul who loves the Lord
Knows that the uttermost a man may do
In that hour was attained—when Peter spake!
Apostle, amply-graced, this second time
’Twas thine to say the absolute fit word!—
Was’t not thy lips which spake—“Thou hast the Words
Of eternal life”?

“Blesséd art thou,” saith Christ,

“Simon Bar-jonah; not from lips of men
Hast learned this mystery which no man knows
Save as God tells him secretly: His hand
Hath lifted th’ veil of flesh that clothes Me round
And shewn thy God to thee in the Son of man:
Peter, I named thee, and a Rock thou art,
For a man and his words are one, and thou hast said
Those words My Church shall rest on: I will raise
With myriad stones of grace a building vast
For the shelter of the nations; thou and thy words,—
That great Confession thou hast made this day,—
Shall, sure foundation, underlie the whole,
And, lo, the gates of hell, with hordes of fiends
Issuing therefrom all shouting blasphemy,
Shall not prevail to shake that Rock of Faith—
Assurance that I am the Christ, the Son of God.
The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven I give to thee,—
For all thou makest sure with thine assurance,
Each soul thou giv’st to know the Christ of God,
Into the Kingdom of heaven straight he goes,
And sings and sits at ease there: these be the free,
Whom thou hast loosed with thy great Word of truth,—
Thou, or another, holding this same faith.
But the words of truth he hears shall judge a man,
Shall loose him or shall bind: so thou shalt bind,
E’en by the words in which thou nam’st My Name,
The proud who will not hear thee nor receive.
There is no liberty but in My Name;
And whoso doth refuse the Christ of God—
A captive goes he, bound with error’s chain,
Oppressed and wounded sorely. Go ye then,
Loose all men in My Name, and lay those stones,
Each stone a faithful soul, which be My Church!
Nay, burn your hearts with the message, would ye haste
To proclaim this mighty Gospel, this Good News?
But ye shall wait awhile; tell no man yet
That He you follow is the Christ of God.”

St. Matthew xvi. 13-20.
St. Mark viii. 27-30.
St. Luke ix. 18-21.

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