Do you remember, when you were in school, ever being in one of those lessons where instead of putting your hand up to answer the teacher’s questions, the teacher just picks on someone and you don’t want that someone to be you! You know a really tricky question is coming and as you sit there waiting to be put on the spot, you get more and more anxious,
and you can hear your heart pounding and the palms of your hands get clammy and sweaty and you think that by looking down, she won’t pick on you! And as you’re looking down you’re thinking to yourself don’t make eye contact with her! Whatever you do, don’t look up and catch her gaze. And suddenly your desk becomes so fascinating as you look intently at it, or you pretend you’re still writing, going over the last word 10 times. And all the time you’re thinking that no matter what, don’t… look…up! And then … phew! Some other poor student who hasn’t quite mastered the “averting gaze, looking busy avoidance strategy” gets picked on. And you relax… and in confidence you look smugly around the room thinking “that was a lucky escape”.
I wonder if it was like that for the disciples when Jesus asks them tricky questions.
In the Gospel reading this morning, Jesus asks them two questions. The first seems straightforward enough “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he asks them.
That’s ok – they’ve heard what others think about Jesus and all they have to do to answer the question, is report back what they’ve overheard. Maybe they listened to what the crowds were saying when Jesus healed the sick or when he fed a multitude with just five loaves and two fishes. They heard that some people thought he was one of the prophets; maybe people in the crowds noticed that some of John the Baptist’s followers were now following Jesus and put 2 and 2 together and made 5. Or maybe they connected Jesus with the prophet Elijah because they both came from the North and were Godly, Holy men. Or maybe they thought he was the prophet Jeremiah because like Jeremiah, Jesus opposed the political and religious leaders of the day. So all this was easy to report back – it was straightforward to answer the question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”.
But then .. Jesus asks the ‘eye averting, looking busy, please don’t ask me to answer that…’ sort of a question… the killer question that puts you right on the spot. “But what about you”, he says, “who do you say that I am?”
And Peter, impulsive Peter, doesn’t dodge the question, he doesn’t launch into the avoidance strategy – he blurts out what God has revealed to him, he says, “You are the Messiah the Son of the living God”. He’s saying, ‘Jesus, you are the Christ, God’s anointed Son - You are the Saviour.’
And Jesus blesses him – not for his accomplishments or his strengths as a disciple (in fact, we know that Peter was anything but the perfect disciple, because later he even denies knowing Jesus!) - he blesses him for his testimony or witness to who Jesus is. His public declaration is saying “what I’ve experienced in you, Jesus, is that you are the Messiah. You are the one who restores my relationship with God”.
This weekend, Patrick and I are having an exciting time and we’re both celebrating. Yesterday, I was ordained as a priest and today Patrick is being baptised. These are significant moments in our lives. Just like Peter, we are both making a public declaration about who we believe Jesus is. So, I am going to invite Patrick to come up here as well … and share some of his thoughts with us …
Sample of Questions for Patrick:
When and how did you first become aware of Jesus? When did you realise you wanted to be baptised? What made you decide you wanted to be baptised? Some people talk about following Jesus as an adventure, what are you looking forward to in your adventure?
How are you celebrating after the service?
There will of course be ups and downs for both of us as we continue our adventure following Jesus; there were ups and downs for Peter too. His adventure takes him on a journey of joy and desperation, of exposure to his short comings and to Spirit filled excitement and as we can see from the Acts reading, to imprisonment.
Maybe you’ve experienced some ups and downs in your relationship with God, or in your adventure following Jesus – I know I have. I was a few years older than Patrick when I became a Christian. I was away on a weekend with other teenagers from the church youth club. Graham, the man playing the guitar and leading the singing, asked us if we wanted to ask Jesus into our lives. I answered that question Jesus asks the disciples “who do you think I am?” and prayed to him as my Saviour and Lord. Incidentally, Patrick and his family happen to have chosen a song for the service today, Shine Jesus Shine, that was written by Graham. But, like many teenagers though, I left church when I was 18 – I moved away from home, away from my church community, from Jesus and from God.
But God was hanging on to me. I often describe my experience as if I was at the end of a bungee rope, you know, those heavy duty long elastic ropes that people are attached to when they do bungee jumping. As I seemed to get further and further away from God, at the bottom of the fall, I was catapulted back into His arms. And, as you can see, my adventure took a different turn!
I don’t know where you are on your adventure… Maybe as yet, you’re not quite sure who this Jesus actually is; it’s easy to answer the question “who do people say that I am” but when it comes to the killer question “who do you say that I am?” that one makes you want to look down – don’t catch His gaze!
Or, maybe for you, you’re at the end of the bungee rope and being here today, as you look around and hear the worship, it brings you back to your history of being in church and you’re now yearning to be catapulted back into his arms - and who knows, where He’ll lead you
Or maybe for you, you are settled and already resting in His loving arms.
Where ever you are on your adventure, you can pray that God might reveal his Son to you – and be reassured that Jesus wants to restore your relationship with God and that as you come to know Him more, he blesses you.
And, to start our celebrations, Patrick and I thought we’d share a DVD clip with you – just as a reminder that it certainly is an adventure following Jesus!
1. What’s your reaction to Jesus’ question “Who do you say the Son of Man is?”
2. Can you identify the ups and downs of your adventure with Jesus?
3. What aspects of your adventure with Jesus would you like to celebrate?