St Michael & St Barnabas, 15th September 2013
We are called to build his church…
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” (Jesus) asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Last week, Tim asked the question, ‘How much evidence do you need?’ … and we saw, that for some people the evidence is irrelevant, because they’ve already made up their minds. The Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the day, believed in a creator God, they believed he spoke to people and had acted on their behalf throughout the history of their nation, they were looking forward to a time when God would send his anointed one to bring his plan of salvation to a conclusion.
Yet when it came to Jesus being the Messiah – God’s agent of salvation – they were simply unable to accept the evidence that was right there in front of them … their minds were closed and so they refused to believe that Jesus was who they’d been waiting for, God’s provision for their greatest need. What a tragedy.
It was Peter – simple, uneducated, clumsy Peter – who first grasped the greatest truth in history.
He’d had an inkling of it some time before … if you have a bible within reach, turn with me to Luke chapter 5 (p.1032). Tim referred briefly to this story last week … Luke 5:1-11 tells of the time when Simon Peter and his colleagues had been fishing all night without success. They were on shore, tired, working to get the nets ready for their next attempt. Jesus commandeers one of their boats, and despite their night’s work, they agree to let him use their boat as floating pulpit. Jesus was already a popular figure, he was known for his amusing stories and there were rumours of miraculous healings, so although they should perhaps have been at home and asleep, the fishermen stayed to hear what he had to say. When Jesus had finished, in payment for the use of their boat, Jesus tells them to put out to deep water, and to let down their nets.
Peter was a fisherman, and he fished at night because that’s when the fish were easier to catch … but Peter was taken with Jesus, he’d heard what Jesus had to say, so he and his colleagues did as Jesus asked. I can imagine that it might have caused quite a stir in the crowd to see what they were doing … perhaps the fishermen were even a little embarrassed about doing something so ridiculous. I don’t know. Anyway, let’s pick up the story now at verse 5 …
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
You know, the more I think about it, the more profound Simon Peter’s reaction seems to me … he neither worries about the boat that’s still sinking, nor rejoices at the amazing catch and his good fortune (it was worth a lot of money), he’s not impressed by the miracle, because that’s what it was, Peter knew it wasn’t a fluke … instead, Peter immediately recognises he is not worthy of even being in the presence of this man Jesus.
How many people do you know that you would react to in the same way? I’m not sure I can think of one …
I am a sinful man … Peter’s reaction indicates he recognised Jesus as being, in some special way, holy. Not with the assumed holiness of the religious elite, measured by keeping an impossibly long list of rules and regulations, but by his presence, and his word. Peter felt that he was in the presence of God … why else would he think of himself in that way, a sinful man.
And yet, when Jesus invited him to come … to leave everything behind … to become an itinerant disciple with nowhere to call home and no regular income … Peter went. Immediately. He wanted to be with this man Jesus.
Back in Matthew 16, Peter has been with Jesus now for perhaps two years or more. He’s heard all the stories and parables, he’s not only seen but been part of the miracles, he’s experienced the opposition, he’s put his foot in it more than once … he’s still the same simple, uneducated, clumsy Peter … but once again, when faced with the reality of this man Jesus, and put on the spot … Peter has a flash of inspiration, a moment of profound insight,
“… what about you?” (Jesus) asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
After all he had seen and experienced, there was no other answer possible.
So, what about you? Who do you say that Jesus is? Sunday by Sunday here at St M/B, our aim for all our preaching and teaching and sharing and praying and worship is to get to know Jesus a little better week by week. If you’ve been here for any length of time, I’m sure you’d give a ‘right answer’ to the question, ‘Who do you say that Jesus is?’, but anyone can say the words. Letting it influence our lives is another story.
My simple point this morning, is that your answer to the question should make a difference. If you let it.
A difference to your life … knowing who Jesus is affects everything – our principles and our priorities … how we spend our time and our money … our attitudes to others … our willingness to change and to create change. We will experience forgiveness, and unconditional love. We can find peace in any circumstance, joy in all our difficulties, company when we’re lonely, hope when the future is uncertain.
It doesn’t happen instantly … but over time, if you mean what you say, knowing Jesus makes a difference to your life.
Knowing who Jesus is makes a difference to the lives of those around you … as we become more forgiving, as we share the love of God with others, by our words or by our actions, as we encourage one another, as we share our possessions, as we work towards doing good, as we spend time with others rather than on our own interests, as we share with them the good news we’ve come to understand, as together we work for the good of the community, to offer hope and understanding.
And ultimately, knowing who Jesus is makes a difference not only to the wider community but to the entire world! You may only be a small part of a vast and growing church across the world … but you are part of that growth. And while the church here in the UK may be struggling, elsewhere things are different, and the church is experiencing rapid growth. Parts of the worldwide church are struggling against the tide of secularism and opposition, while other parts are struggling to survive in times of famine or war … but the church as a whole exists to bring glory to God and people to Jesus. And you, if you know who Jesus is, are part of that.
So this morning, as we hear Peter’s confession of who Jesus is … the Christ, the Son of the living God … what difference will it make?