It depends… it completely depends. Isn’t that just a politician’s or a fluffy nice vicar’s answer? It’s not meant to be… Following on from some of the things I was reflecting on last week, here’s what I said about Jesus and miracles yesterday.Oh, and I haven’t been away- my internet went belly up and today has decided to behave. Go figure.
Who was Jesus? Who is Jesus to us, now? In the midst of the miracles, the talk of the kingdom of God and the teaching we need to know the answer to this question, because everything else depends on it… whether his teaching was wise or lunacy, whether he was promoting rebellion or bringing the kingdom, whether he was a conjurer of snacks or a worker of miracles, whether he knew first aid or could give sight to the blind… what he did depends on who he was. The answers to the questions that many people have about those things hang on the answer to the question ‘who is Jesus?’
It’s the same in lots of areas of life- if a person walks into a crowded noisy space and says ‘Be quiet please’, will everyone listen? They would if it was the head teacher, but maybe not if it was a child that said it. If I paint a picture and you tell me its really good, who you are matters- if you’re my parents, someone who’s lost their glasses, or an art critic… it depends on who you are.
How do we know who someone is, or whether they should do something?
They might tell us
They might wear a badge or a uniform
They might show it by their actions
We might guess
We might recognise them
It might be suddenly obvious to us
Jesus wasn’t that keen on badges… or uniforms, but we often find them helpful today- policemen, medical workers, school staff, vicars, shop or restaurant staff… they help us to know who is who in a world where we don’t actually know people that well.
Sometimes our guesses or recognition are wrong- if I described a spiky, smallish nocturnal animal that snuffles around and eats bugs… what do you think I’m talking about? But if I said it lives in Australia and lays eggs… a spiny echidna and a hedgehog are quite similar, but they are different creatures.
In the same way, Jesus was and is different from the prophets (or which Elijah and John the Baptist were the first and the most recent)… he might have looked and behaved quite like a prophet, but he was a lot more. There’s two names that we see here used to describe Jesus- one used by Peter, and one used by Jesus himself…
Christ- which means the same as Messiah- anointed or chosen one- God’s chosen ruler, the promised ruler of God’s people.
Son of Man- a name Jesus used to describe himself… he uses it when he’s talking about his own authority- representing God, when he’s talking about what will happen to him in the future (his betrayal, death and resurrection), and he uses it to refer back to passages in the Old Testament that refer to the coming of God…
When Peter (and on other occasions, different people) call Jesus the Christ, he responds by saying what the Son of Man will do- as if to say ‘you see me as God’s chosen one, but I’m even more than that’…
Jesus is- someone who heard from God and lived in close relationship with God, someone who understood God’s will and followed it, showing others what it meant to live for God, he was God’s chosen one, sent to bring freedom and justice to all, he was God’s representative on earth… all those things were understood to some extent while Jesus was alive… but then he rose again… and in that he showed himself to be truly God among us. All the other stuff makes sense in the light of that, or is ridiculous without it.
We sometimes wish that we could meet Jesus, that we could see him and touch him, that we could hear his voice and learn from him… and then sometimes i wonder what it would be like if we really could… whether it would be amazing and inspiring and wonderful, or whether we’d be so blown away that it would in fact leave us paralysed, stuck, so aware of our own massive failings that we just wish he’d go away… which would it be?
The only help we have is to look at what it was like for those who did meet Jesus- they were challenged, they realised their own shortcomings, but they (mostly) wanted to enter into the possibility, the hope of forgiveness overwhelming their awareness of sin…
And so for us, who do we say Jesus is, are we ashamed or proud to be his friends, his followers? We might not fully understand what it means to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, but do we want to follow him? Because if we do, that’s enough… we don’t have to achieve it by ourselves- if we believe in him, if we receive him, he calls us all children of God…
So let’s pray… that we might know Jesus better, and be proud to call ourselves his friends.
After this we had a time when the children prayed for the adults in the church, and then the adults prayed for the children (I won’t tell you which group was more hesitant about it all!)
Here’s one that didn’t make it into any of the Gospels..