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Thought for the week - 30 June 2024

Who is Jesus?  Who is He?

 

When I started thinking about this Thought for the Week, and looked at the gospel reading, I got to wondering how that question would be answered today. So, I asked a cross section of people, many either staff or students from the Church of England secondary school at which I am a governor and exams invigilator. I got quite a varied response:

  • He is an idea of a learned teacher

  • He is the Son of God

  • He was a good and learned man, and Chinese Whispers have made Him who people think or say He is today

  • He is God incarnate, the second Person of the Trinity

  • He is an example of how we should live our lives and He sacrificed Himself for our good

  • He is a teacher; someone who guides and supports. He is a messenger from God; a giver of strength in times of need and a provider of peace (I do particularly like that response)


We must remember that we have in excess of 2000 years of hindsight when contemplating this question. We have the Bible – all of it, but especially the New Testament. We have billions of believers who have gone before us; a great many biblical scholars and theologians; and a good number of non-Christian scholars to help us develop our belief, or not, as the case may be.

 

Jesus puts that very same question to His disciples, but only after He had posed a more general question. Just prior to this story, Jesus had been in Tyr & Sidon, and had been ministering to the gentiles, many of whom had embraced His message. Note, in particular, the Canaanite woman who asked Him to heal her daughter and stated that even dogs are able to eat the crumbs from under their Master’s table. But when Jesus comes back among His own people, many, predominantly Pharisees and Scribes, still question His veracity. So, in Caesaria Philippi where, interestingly, there was a temple honouring the emperor Caesar Augustus, Jesus, quite possibly prompted by this apparent reverence of a mortal man, asks His disciples who do people say that the Son of Man is. The responses given by the disciples – some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah or Jeremiah – suggest that He is perceived by many as a prophet, speaking out on behalf of God against wickedness, injustice and immorality. Certainly, the people were awaiting a king, a Messiah, sent from God, to free Israel from oppression. Scottish Theologian and author William Barclay explains that Messiah and Christ both mean ‘the anointed one’ – one being Hebrew and the other Greek. ‘Kings were, and still are, ordained to office by anointing and so the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One is God’s King over all people.’ The Jews did not know just what type of king to expect, but for sure, this king would attract much attention, and hostility from some. But is Jesus this king? They seem to think not. But they do see Him as a great prophet, indicating that they probably even see Him as the forerunner of the expected Messiah as prophesied in Malachi ‘Lo I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.’ But the fact remains, the people do not see Jesus as the actual Messiah.

 

And then the big question……’Who do you say that I am?’ The disciples will have been on a rollercoaster since hooking up with Jesus. All kinds of miracles, teachings, words of wisdom. They gave up pretty much everything to follow Him so that, in itself, must suggest that they thought He was someone pretty special. But do they, at this point in time, truly understand just who this man is – this wonderful teacher. It is really only after the crucifixion and resurrection that the penny finally drops. I wonder if there was a period of silence following Jesus asking this question. Were the disciples’ minds in a quandary? What do they say? This is a huge question. What if they get the answer wrong! And then Peter speaks up ‘You are the Messiah; the Son of the Living God.’ Does Peter actually know this? Does he believe this? Jesus states that Peter did not learn his from any human source. This knowledge has come from God……’my Father in Heaven.’ But Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah clearly consolidates Jesus’ own view of him. Because Jesus then states that Peter would be the rock upon which His Church will be built. Peter, named thus by Jesus, from the Greek petros (m)/petra (f) meaning rock or stone.

 

America Pastor Tony Evans uses an interesting analogy – that the Church is like a nation’s embassy in a foreign country. The people working in that embassy should live up to the values and principles of their own nation while in that foreign country. Tony Evans sees Christ’s Church as ‘a little bit of heaven a long way from home, designed to withstand the authority of Hell.’ So, when we confess who Jesus Christ is, it is not enough for us to simply say it. We must live it too. Our faith must be borne out in our actions such that we are reflecting that little bit of heaven here on earth, a ‘foreign land’ but a land greatly loved by God.

 

Jesus would not be building an actual church, not an actual building, but a community of believers who acknowledge Him as God’s anointed King. Peter’s declaration of faith will be the starting point and this community was, and is, to be perpetuated for all time, at least until Jesus returns and the book of Revelation is fulfilled. And indeed, following Jesus’ ascension, it is Peter who assumes the leadership role and God clearly plans for him to fulfil this role, to the point of breaking him out of prison as we hear in the reading from Acts this week.

 

Finally, the awesome responsibility bestowed upon Peter of having custody of the keys of heaven. Whoever has the keys to a property, or place, effectively has control over who can, or cannot, enter that place. Peter will have control over who enters the Kingdom of Heaven - those who have belief in Jesus Christ and are therefore loosed, or released, of their sins. This notion conjures up for me an image of Peter at the pearly gates either permitting, or denying, entry to heaven through those gates.

 

Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, is almost suggesting that he is unable to actually describe Jesus in human terms. He has no theological or philosophical means to describe Him, as William Barclay suggests. Barclay also notes that Napoleon once gave a verdict on Jesus saying ‘I know men, and Jesus Christ is more than a man.’ Jesus is the key to the whole of God’s relationship with His creation, and having absolute knowledge of this is more powerful than believing it; knowing Jesus is more powerful than knowing about Him. Knowing Him in our hearts, living with Him in our lives. Jesus is our friend, He is the point, He is alive, and He is here.

 

So, if Jesus asks you the question ‘Who do you say that I am?’…….what will your response be?

1 Comment


tom lake
tom lake
Jul 03

a

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