For the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, how is it that this feast commemorates or links together these two out of the multitude of Christian Saints? Of course the answer is obvious as they are the two that were so important is spreading the gospel and converting so many into a life of Christ.But since this feast day links these two together, what does such a comparison yield? For background it is Peter that sails with Christ around the sea of Galilee while Paul’s encounter is with an Easter Christ. Peter is one of the first disciples and Paul is one of the earliest persecutors of Christians. Peter in one moment tells Jesus he is “the Christ of God”, that is the Messiah of God, and then denies knowing Christ three times. Paul the Jewish scholar at one moment is the most arduous persecutors of Christians, and then becomes known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Both encounter Christ, though differently and again both accept and deny Christ in their own way. Peter is of course the fisherman recruited by Jesus and one of his most trusted followers, and it was on the strength of this fisherman that Jesus built his Church. Peter had a dialogue with Jesus that few had experienced, and through that dialogue he was trusted with great responsibility. Paul’s dialogue with Jesus reached a pinnacle on the road to Damascus when that Easter Jesus says ” Paul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul goes from persecutor to disciple. Though now a disciple, Paul must begin to answer that question of who Christ is: and that is the same question that Jesus asked of Peter. I wonder how Paul came up with his answer? I would guess that he learned much from the very Christians he had persecuted, but at some point he would turn to that fisherman so that the religious scholar could learn something of God.
In questioning Peter about Jesus, it is hard to picture a fisherman standing in front of a lecture hall teaching. It is easy though to imagine any fisherman conversing on a boat. Peter fished from a boat, and with Jesus he accompanied as he preached from the boat or traveled from shoreline to shoreline with Jesus. Would it be too great a stretch of the imagination to think of Peter and Paul aboard a boat discussing Jesus and his teachings? Peter sailed Galilee spreading the good news with Jesus and sailing is what fisherman do. Paul in his missions spent much time aboard boats spreading the word to the Gentiles. Travelling by sea ( or today by airplane) gives the traveler a very different perspective than that of the land traveler. The distance across a body of water is much shorter than around it. Imagine the differences of cultures that could be experienced by the sea traveler. Paul’s conversion started on a road, on his mission he traveled by sea.Is it wrong to think of Peter sailing across the sea with Paul in explaining Christ. The sea was so important to Christs mission. For Paul to experience Christ, what better way than to experience it as Christ preached? Christ preached many times from a boat.
In comparing Peter and Paul, Peter was a Fisherman while Paul started as a Pharisee scholar. Paul was educated in a society where few could be granted such a privilege. He also was Pharisee which was an elite group.Peter becomes that first bishop of Rome, the leader of Christians and the scholar of Jesus Christ. It is to Peter that Paul goes with his questions of doctrine when preaching to the Gentiles.Paul, as he preaches the gospel takes little or no financial support from those early Churches. To support himself he too takes on a trade and that trade is that of a tent maker.Of no small importance is that a tent maker is also a sail maker.What Peter and Paul had in common can be seen in that boat. Before Paul could sail across he sea preaching Christ, he had to spend time in a boat with Peter learning about Christ. He had to learn to walk across the water as Jesus taught Peter. In a sense Peters fishing boat might have been the first Christian Church. and Paul very well might have been its sail maker. It was the boat that carried the message of the Gospel, but it was the sail that carried it to the distances of the Gentiles and all the corners of the earth.