Our passage for today (Matthew Ch 16 vs 13-20) is a short one but a very telling one. It challenges us to clarify our own thinking about Jesus.
Jesus had been in the area around Nazareth and had been healing, teaching and performing miracles. As he moved on to yet another location (Caesarea Philippi) he asked his disciples a question “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
What prompted Jesus to ask this question, you may ask. Now you may think that Jesus was looking for some reassurance or trying to gauge his popularity amongst the general public; a bit like politicians seeking election! However, that was not the case. Jesus knew exactly who he was and what was the mission that lay before him. He knew full well that the general public were puzzled about him. He knew that he divided opinion. That question was just the lead-up to a much more important question!
That question was “But who do you say that I am?” It infers that Jesus understood that people, in general, were a bit unsure but he expected his closest followers to have a much more defined knowledge of who he was. After all they had been with him for three years, receiving teaching directly from him, watching him heal and perform miracles. So now he challenges them directly; now is the point of no return, there is no hiding place!
Before we go on to think about the answer that came, let’s pause and think about that question. The circumstances in which it was asked are very relevant to this modern day. Nowadays, people, in general, would also appear to be confused about this man Jesus. Some dismiss him, some have an inkling that he was special in some way, some probably have a desire to know more about him. However, for those who call themselves Christians and have confessed a faith in Him there should be no hesitation
I would be delighted if I thought that might be the case. Sadly, I don’t, because even amongst those who do call themselves Christians there is a degree of confusion. The problem is that some only know what they have been taught about Jesus. However, it is never enough to know about Jesus, you must know Jesus for yourself. The question Jesus asks is “You, what do you think of me”
That is what makes him relevant to this day and challenging to each one of us personally. We really should be answering that question for ourselves.
Indeed, it is crucial that we answer that question for ourselves because it impacts on our whole life. Our actions, our thoughts, our very being will be affected by our understanding of this man Jesus.
So let us return to the passage. After Jesus asks the question, the first to answer – surprise, surprise – is Simon Peter! His answer could not be clearer “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In some versions of the Bible it will have “You are the Christ” but don’t worry about that, Christ and Messiah are the same, they both mean the Anointed One. Jesus must have been relieved at that answer because it meant that three years of teaching have borne fruit. At least one of his disciples have some understanding of him. That was important in light of the work that would need to be done in the future.
So pleased is Jesus with this answer that he tells Simon Peter that he will build his church on him. In other words, Peter will be the first in the fellowship of believers. When we read church in this passage, please don’t think about a building or even a national church like the Methodist Church. Think of the fellowship of believers worldwide. Peter was the first man to make that leap of faith to understand Jesus as the Son of the Living God. He was the first member of the fellowship of believers. The fellowship of all who believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
What follows in the passage seems difficult to understand but perhaps we can paraphrase it by saying “once you make this personal discovery about me then you have unlocked a great secret. However, you have a responsibility to help others to come to the same conclusion. It won’t always be easy because there will be evil forces who will try to stop you. Don’t worry about them because they will not prevail against you.”
Each person who has the privilege of a personal relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, the son of the Living God, also has a responsibility for helping others to make that same discovery. We need to share our good News and we need to walk alongside others and point them in the right direction. However, we can’t make the discovery for them; each person must make it for themselves!
Next week we will go on to consider what challenges will come our way if we commit ourselves to follow Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
Lord as we continue our journey through this time of pandemic many questions fill our minds;
We wonder when it will all come to an end,
We think about what we must do to stay safe,
We ask ourselves if our family and friends are staying safe, We ponder if a vaccine will be available soon,
We have so many questions, Lord, and not so many answers. But You, Lord, have a question for us.
Who do we say that you are?
Lord, we pray that we can answer that question with strong statement of belief
‘You, Lord, are the Messiah – the Son of the living God!’
For this is the basis of our faith;
We believe that you are the Messiah who came to bring salvation to all who would believe in you.
Lord, help us to strengthen that belief and to share it with others and send your Holy Spirit to equip us for the task.
Holy Spirt, guide us for we would follow Jesus
Open our mind and heart to His truth
Enliven our imagination with His presence.
Increase our gratitude for His living, dying, rising
And strengthen us in our commitment, we pray.
It is in that commitment to the love shown by our Saviour that we pray for others today.
We pray for our communities that they may continue to show kindness and care to all but especially to those who are struggling in this time of Covid-19
We pray for our schools as they settle into the new term and pray that you protect all children and staff.
We pray for all members of our Church family and especially those who are unwell, sorrowing or anxious at this time.
We think on our country and its leaders and pray for your wisdom to be the basis of their decision making.
Lord give to all a spirit of mutual service and help us always to walk in your footsteps of love
We ask all this through Jesus our Messiah.
Rev Nik Wooller
23rd August 2020