It will be 24 years this week since my much loved and wise Dad died. I can’t help to remember one of the most valuable lessons he taught me as I reflect on who Jesus is.
23/8/20 – 11th Sunday after Trinity
I grew up in Canada – just outside of Calgary; and I would say that I was a pretty good kid – a reasonable student, polite, well behaved, didn’t get into much trouble, etc. This carried on largely into my teenage years with the odd scrape, of course. Becoming a teenager means doing things independently of one’s parents and exploring night life. I grew up in a small town, so it didn’t take long to explore! Once curfew times had been negotiated and I got ready to go out, my Dad would almost inevitably say ‘Susan, remember who you are.’
Man! Sometimes it really bothered me! Especially if I hadn’t fully disclosed where I would be going or what I would be doing that evening. It was my Dad’s way of telling me to behave, to remember how I had been raised and what was acceptable behaviour. There were times when that sentence would pass through my mind and – I believe – steered my behaviour. As I grew up and matured, I have come to realise that ‘remembering who I am’ is a very valuable thing to know.
In the Gospel reading this morning we are asked to consider who Jesus is. This is a pivotal moment in Peter’s life and in the lives of the disciples.
Why is Jesus asking this question?
Over the last few weeks in the lectionary we have been talking about weeds, wheat, pearls, treasures, mustard seeds, bread and fish. These are all stories about Jesus taking very little of something and making it very, very big. The miracles displayed in these stories show us God’s power displayed through Jesus in the provision and generosity given to those who choose to follow. We also had the feeding of the 5000 and the woman with the demon-possessed daughter. These stories are pointing to the person of Jesus and who he is.
One of the recurring themes throughout these readings is Jesus having to continually prove himself to the disciples and the crowds. They are still doubting as they do not yet understand who He is and what he came to do in the building of the kingdom of God. Up to this point Jesus has been seeking to prove his claim of messiahship through words and deeds. Now it is time to see if the lesson has been learned. Jesus starts with a ‘public opinion’ survey: ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
He is given a variety of public opinion answers and this opinion is divided. Some say he is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. These answers are interesting – people did not think of Jesus, meek and mild; not the cosy friend of little children – but rather like one of the wild prophets of the Old Testament. One who stood up spoke the word of God fearlessly and against the rulers of the day.
Then Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter: “Who do you say I am?” Suddenly there is no public opinion to hide behind. They must make an intelligent, personal choice based on the witnessed miracles and heard messages.
Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. An answer which gets him some serious praise and blessing. The importance of Peter’s answer is that he acknowledged that Jesus was not just God’s mouthpiece against injustice and corruption, but that Jesus was God’s Messiah – God’s king.
Take a moment now and consider that question for yourself. Who is Jesus to you? A good moral teacher? Jesus meek and mild – the baby in the manger that seems to stay there? Jesus on the cross who doesn’t seem to get down. Jesus the Prince of Peace, wonderful counsellor, Mighty Saviour, Name Above all Names. This is an answer with not only eternal consequences but with consequences for the everyday trials and triumphs of walking around on this planet.
Jesus had a word for Peter after his announcement. Tom Wright writes: ‘if Peter was prepared to say that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus was prepared to say that, with this allegiance, Peter would himself be the foundation for his new building. Just as God gave Abram the name Abraham, indicating that he would be the father of many nations, so now Jesus gives Simon the new name Peter, the Rock.’
Peter went on to do just that. This was not – of course – without trials and tribulation for Peter. As we know he denied Christ before the crucifixion and had to live with that guilt and shame. Never forget that Jesus restored Peter on the beach.
This is really helpful for as and when we forget who Jesus is – we – like Peter can be restored to the body. We need to take ourselves to Jesus, ask for the forgiveness and start again.
The opening verse of the Isaiah reading tells us to look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look at Jesus again. He loves us – loves you. His grace is sufficient.
It is through God’s grace that we have been restored and redeemed and it is also through grace that we have been given the gifts of God. Anyone need to hear this today?
In the Romans reading we are reminded that we are one body with many members and being members of one another. We have been given gifts – ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and compassion. This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many, many more gifts of the Spirit. These are the gifts that we need, our families, friends and the wider world need us to use. The body of Christ is desperately needed! This is why we need to know who Jesus is – we are part of his body – best to know something of the person in whom we dwell and dwells in us.
By knowing who Jesus is – we can have a clearer picture of who we are. We can remember who we are and who we were we made to be when we know who Jesus. The beloved children of God.