Monday, August 25, 2014

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Who do you say that I am?

This is such a simple question, yet the answer is not quite that simple.

Where and when Jesus asks this question are important in the whole narrative:

Think about what has happened:
He has healed many people.
He feed over 5000 with just 5 fish and two loaves.
He has walked on water.
He has challenged the religious leaders.
He has been challenged by a foreign woman, an outsider.

Up until that moment, his mission was for the ‘lost sheep of Israel.’
The healings, the feedings were for them.
After the Canaanite woman’s challenge, he begins to heal Gentiles.
There is another miraculous feeding, this time for all people, not just ‘the lost sheep of Israel.’

Jesus mission has become bigger than he initially thought.
It is time to reassess. It is time to take stock of the situation.

He takes his group of followers with him to Ceasarea Phillipi.
This was the regional headquarters of the Roman Empire.
If Canberra is Rome, this is like going to outside the local MP’s office.
He does this for a reason. He is asking them about who is the most important.
Is it the religious leaders?
He has challenged them, and the disciples, while a bit scared, have continued to follow him.
Is it then the civic leaders?
Who is then?

So, things are changing.

Jesus wants to know:
‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 
He is asking the disciples: what are you hearing about me?
What is being said about me when I am not around?
What is being asked about me?
With all that I am doing and saying, what is the impression I am making on all the people.
Now that it is not just the lost sheep of Israel, but all people, who do they say that I am?

And they said,
‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah,
and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 

None of these are right. They all fall short of the mark.
They all recognise something of who Jesus is, but not the whole picture.

Who do people say Jesus is today?
He is a baby that is talked about along with Santa in December.
He is a guy who lived a long time ago who said a lot of stuff that sounds good, but doesn’t really work in everyday life.
He is man who millions of people carry on about, but don’t really follow.

I am not sure whether most people get who Jesus is.
I am not sure whether we do a very good job of letting them know.

Those who don’t know Jesus will get to know who he is by how they see him portrayed by those who claim to follow him.

When the church sits by and does nothing to help those in trouble,
what impression of Jesus are the public going to get?
When the church abuses its own people and abuses it’s power,
what will people think Jesus is like?

So, Jesus has heard from the disciples who everyone else thinks he is.
But who do you say that I am?’
You who have been with me, who have witnessed all that has happened, who have talked with me, who have shared in my life, who do you think I am ?

You can feel the tension.
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 
Peter gets it right.
Jesus is the Son of God.
He isn’t just some prophet or man who does good, he is the Messiah, the anointed one.
He is fully human and fully divine.

Who do you say Jesus is?

We say a whole bunch of stuff about him today, especially after the sermon when we affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.

What Peter confessed, we will confess.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Who is he?
Who has he been in your life?

Is he the one who saved you?
Is he the one who stayed with you when everyone else left?
Is he the one who was with you when it seemed that there was nothing worth living for?
Is the one who healed you of your pain?
Is he the one who feeds you spiritually so you can carry on?

Who you say Jesus is will largely depend on your own life and experience.

Ultimately, the answer will be our lives.

The way we live, the way we treat others, the way we respond to what happens.
The way we live, the way we treat others is really who we say Jesus is.
We are saying this is how Jesus is, this is what Jesus does.

When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison.

And Jesus answered him,
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church
We can pray for a time when there will be no need for anyone to ask who Jesus is,
because everyone will know.
Everyone will know who he is through the actions of his body, the church.

No comments: