Jesus on tour… #stillconfusedaudience

Last Sunday I preached a slightly rambling version of this text, having conducted a wedding the day before (weirdly the most tiring thing I do in my job…) and generally feeling slightly odd… apparently the last 5 minutes of the talk were really good, so you may want to fast forward the audio from our website or skip a few paragraphs… anyway, from chapter 8 of Mark’s Gospel…

Jesus’ preaching tour continues, and at this point he ask his disciples for some feedback- who do people say I am? And the answers they give are quite revealing-

John the Baptist, who we all know is dead, but somehow people aren’t paying attention to what they know is true…

Elijah (or another one of the prophets)…

Interestingly, all of those were people who came to draw people towards God and also to speak God’s words to people… so the crowds have got something right- they know Jesus isn’t just a teacher and a wise man (which if you were to conduct the same survey in Barnstaple today would be the most widely offered responses by folks in town).

But, its as if they’re so close, but just missing out- there was an expectation that Elijah might return as a forerunner to the messiah, and John had claimed to be doing just that… and yet they think Jesus is also fitting into that mould-  why is that? Maybe its because its easier that way- its ok to get excited about something that is on its way- you can look forward to it and get ready for it, but until it gets happens you can pretty much carry on as you were… the messiah is going to come YES!, the messiah is on the way YES!, the messiah is coming YES! But in between whiles nothing has to change. The messiah has arrived and is in the next village- that requires a shift in thinking, a shift that many people weren’t ready for. And many still aren’t.

But not Peter- You are the Christ, which is the greek translation of messiah. You are the anointed one of God who comes to save. And you’re also challenging people and changing things, and while some may not have been happy with that, Peter was.

As Christians we have to acknowledge that we have changed- that is what it means to be baptised and live in the light of our faith- we’ve been forgiven for our sins and brought to new life- it doesn’t matter when it happened or how slowly it happened, but we have been changed by God. If we have always been a Christian for as long as we can remember, then it can be really hard to understand this, but it is the basis of our faith.

Peter accepted that, he’d seen enough of Jesus, and was able to say ‘you are the messiah’.

But, and this is really important for us to hear- Peter still messed up. And Jesus didn’t just say ‘its ok, you had one moment where you got it, that’ll do fine’. No- he rebuked him, and then called him to come further along the road- further into the life of following Jesus, of discipleship.  If we’re going to be Christians, it involves change- not just once but again and again- because it involves growth- growing in the knowledge of God’s love for us, growing in love for the world, growing in compassion and in the gifts that God has given us- both the natural talents that we have and the spiritual gifts that the Spirit brings…

The difficulty of change- its painful but essential to accept that if, like the disciples, we’re going to change, we have to have come to the realisation that we are spiritually hard of hearing and short sighted… if God’s desire is to change us and ours is to remain the same, its probably not that God has a mistaken view of us or an overblown idea of our potential… This is for all of us- there’s no super holiness exam… everyone who is a Christian is called to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus.

To deny ourself is to put God first- to say that his will, his word has the final say in the decisions we make, rather than the things we see on adverts or read in papers.

To take up our cross is to recognise that those decisions will have an impact and they may cause us to suffer, to be rejected by others.

But we follow Jesus- to remember that when we do this we are following the one who has saved us and changed us and has promised to be with us and offers us life eternal.

This life of following Jesus starts with us, just us, and him. Just the same as it was in the beginning. A few people working out what it means to follow Jesus and committing to that path, encouraging and helping one another- that’s all we mean when we talk of mentoring…

And the single most important thing we need, the greatest thing we have, the thing we see Jesus and the early church doing throughout the New Testament, is prayer. That’s why we pray so much when we’re gathered together in worship- because it is important. But we don’t just pray using the words of our learned prayers. Sometimes we pray in silence, and our thoughts and the prayers of our hearts are guided by and inspired by the world around us- that’s what we’ll be doing this evening, if you can join us. Sometimes we pray out loud in our own words- not because they’re any better, but because they are from our own heart. Sometimes we pray with others to be encouraged and held accountable (that’s Thursday morning each week here in the church) and sometimes we pray our prayers in solitude- whether it’s the Lord’s Prayer at noon or the daily office of Morning or Evening Prayer. Sometimes it’s a putting aside a chunk of time- going to the House of Prayer this week or during our prayer days, sometimes it’s a fleeting prayer, fired like an arrow… We don’t always get the answer we want to those prayers- God hears and responds, but doesn’t obedient to us… we’re obedient to him in our prayers and our lives.

But its prayer, however we do it, that will help us to stand, like Peter and say ‘you are the Christ’, to give up what we have for the what we will receive…

People may wonder how we Christians know that prayer works… and one answer I’ve heard is that if prayer doesn’t work, then there is nothing to lose by trying it… try praying consistently about something that is of importance to you, every day, for a month, and honestly ask yourself at the end whether anything has happened. And whether it is in you, in others, or in the world, I believe that you will find that your prayer will be answered. You may want to pray about the question that Jesus asked- Who are you Jesus? I want to know who you are… you may want to pray about what happened next ‘Help me to have in mind the things of God’… you may be struggling with following Jesus instead of the values of the world- help me to follow you… you may have forgotten your faith and what it once meant to you, and need that reassurance and forgiveness… help me to know I’m forgiven…

God’s desire is for you to come deeper into relationship with him, for us to grow as a church both in depth and in strength, and the way that he calls us to do that is through prayer.

So let’s pray now.

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One thought on “Jesus on tour… #stillconfusedaudience

  1. Hi Andy ( Great man of God – who is above all doing his best and when tired,  “Guess Who ” fully understands ) Just want to encourage you in all you do in  His name !! Keep feeding the sheep and we’re  praying, He’ll  give you strength and  patience as you push on. God bless you  Big T  and  Moderately sized M ( Mother & Father the ” outlaws ” )

    Sent from Samsung tablet

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