Trinity 15 – 12th September – Derek Taylor

Mark 8: 27 – end   Who is Jesus?

Jesus asked, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  That’s a strange, but interesting question.  Yet it is not one that springs readily to modern ears.  You can’t expect someone like the Pope or the Dalai Lama to ask: ‘Who do people say that I am?’

I suppose that for many years I personally never really questioned who Jesus was.  My faith was firmly based on God the Father.  After all, Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven’.  And Jesus was much more a person sent by God to show us how to live.  I could happily recite in the Creed; ‘God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father’, without it having very much impact.  The thing is, I guess I wanted then and example, not a Saviour.

Yet, if we go back to Jesus’ time on earth, the total expectation was looking for ‘the One who is to come’.  The known world then was in turmoil, much as it is today.  The Romans occupied Israel, and made life hard and difficult, and many people before Jesus had been looked to as possible leaders.  So was this rabbi from Nazareth the one for whom Israel had waited for centuries, the one of whom prophets and psalmists had spoken?  Was Jesus the long-promised Messiah?  (Messiah, incidentally, is the Hebrew word and means The Anointed One.  It is the same word as the Greek Christ.  Yet we tend to use Christ rather as a surname – Jesus Christ, Derek Taylor.  Yet it is Jesus the Anointed One).

Many people had questioned who Jesus was.  After he preached in the synagogue, people asked; ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’  They found it hard to accept, in spite of his healing miracles and teaching, that he could be anything other than an exceptional human being.  Yet, at this pivotal moment, before that time on the mountain top when Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah and the voice from heaven declared; ‘This is my son,’ when only those possessed with evil spirits called out to him as the Son of God,  Peter, articulating the thoughts of the other disciples, when asked the second question by Jesus; ‘Who do you say that I am?’ ranked him greater that Abraham, Moses or any other Old Testament patriarch, king or prophet, and declared; ‘You are the Messiah’.  At last, the long promised one had come.  As Messiah he had unique status, he was God’s accredited representative, his anointed emissary who was to judge mankind. Deliver his people and bring the world to God.  He was akin to God.

It was the right answer and yet it had the wrong ideas behind it.  Peter thought of someone who would overthrow the Romans and set up a material kingdom, whereas Jesus himself taught of a spiritual kingdom established by suffering love.  Right to the end of Jesus’ earthly life, Peter thought he knew best, that his way was better than that of Jesus.  Are we today any better?

We need to learn that God’s way is not man’s way.  In Jesus God shows that He will achieve His victories through suffering love.  The Cross is Jesus’ acceptance of this, and the proof that he was right.  Suffering love DOES conquer.

But Peter and the disciples were just the first to find this difficult.  We too want a cosy discipleship, and aren’t over-worried by its ineffectiveness.  We want to serve humanity in a thousand ways that do not hurt us.  But it is only when we follow the way of costly obedience that we are truly following the suffering Lord.  He never pretended that following him would be easy – the gate is small, the road is narrow and those who find it are few.

So, back to the original question; ‘Who do people say that I am?’  It is not asked today.  Yest it needs to be.  Why are our churches declining so rapidly?  We need to turn to the next question – the more important one; ‘Who do you say that I am?’  Can you answer that?  It is vitally important that we have the right views of Jesus.  Is he divine or only human?  If he is only human, we may gain much from his teachings and example, but that is all.  When we are struggling or tempted we can’t turn to him for personal help.  Not even the holiest of saints in heaven ever reach down to help us.  No more can Jesus, if he is only human.  But if he is divine, he can be to us all that we need as friend, helper, guide, comforter, refuge. So it DOES matter what we believe concerning the person of Jesus.

‘Who do you say that I am?’  It is a question that particularly needs answering in this pandemic.  Do we trust in the power of Jesus, or in man-made rules and regulations?  Where is the voice of God being heard today:  Where are the prophets?  No wonder there is a pandemic: no-one is turning to God; the whole world is neglecting Him.  Are we then, being condemned to 40 years in the wilderness?  Are you a doubter or a truster?  A believer or a sceptic?  Who is Jesus?  A good man of history or the powerful, present person of God?   Surely we don’t put our trust in the edicts of governments nor even the arguments of scientists.  Our trust must be in the Lord Jesus, our God.  He taught us to pray; ‘The Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours NOW and forever’.

We can look back and see what he has done.  We can look forward to see what he can and will do, if we trust.  But…

But, do we ever call out to him to come to our aid, or please for his constant love to save us?  Just look at the Psalms as examples.  There are two things we can do to make sure we are on the right track:

  1. Go home, get out your Bible, preferably a modern version, and give yourself time to read the whole of St Mark’s Gospel: ‘This is the Good News about Jesus Christ’ and then encourage someone else to do the same
  2. Take your courage in both hands, cast aside all inhibitions, and in the course of normal conversation ask people – family, friends, neighbours, anyone; ‘Who do you say Jesus is?’

It may have an amazing ripple effect.  Give it a try.