Loving God, as we come before You today, help us to look to Your Son and as best we can follow His example. Help us to serve You without fear and to bear witness to You in all we think, say and do. And all this we ask in Jesus name. Amen.
Reading Matthew 16:13-20
For about three years now Jesus Disciples had spent most of their time with Him. They followed Him through all the towns and villages, listening to everything he said, watching all that He did. They spent time with Him in their own small group, listening to His teaching and spending time with Him in quiet devotion. And in all that He said and did, Jesus was making it clear, without actually saying so, just who He was.
But it wasn’t only those Disciples who witnessed all of this. Everyone in those towns and villages that Jesus visited also saw and heard all that Jesus was doing. They heard His Sermon on the Mount, they witnessed Him feeding the multitudes and healing the sick. They saw Him raise the dead to new life. And everything that Jesus did, Jesus was clearly showing that He was their long awaited Messiah. But did the people know this?
Who do people say the Son of Man is? Jesus asked His Disciples.
Now at this point that’s not too difficult a question for the Disciples to answer, because they have heard what others have said. John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah – all good answers indeed. But this is where it now gets difficult for those Disciples, because Jesus now turns His attention to them. But what about you, who do you say that I am?
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re engaged in conversation with other people and suddenly you’re asked for your opinion on a specific topic and you don’t really know what to say. Either because you don’t have any real opinion to offer, through lack of any real knowledge or understanding of the topic in question. Or maybe because, although you do have an opinion, you’re a bit afraid to express it because you’re not quite sure how it will be received by those engaged in the conversation.
And I sometimes wonder if that’s perhaps how it was with the majority of those Disciples during this exchange with Jesus. Were they still uncertain, were they fearful of saying what they believed. Or did they perhaps think that it was something of an unfair question, taking all things into consideration.
After all, hadn’t they all shown by giving up all they had and all they had known to follow Jesus, exactly what they believed about Him. So why then is Jesus now pressing them on this question?
To know who Jesus really is – is vital. Like those of whom they spoke of comparing Jesus to John the Baptist and Elijah, the Disciples had no doubt that He was indeed someone who had come from God and that He was special and very important.
Someone who had been sent by God and who was clearly there to do the will of God.
They believed in His teaching and His preaching. They had witnessed how the multitudes had come to listen to Him and had been affected so much by what He said. And they believed in His power and authority. They believed in the evidence of his miracles – miracles that they themselves had taken part in on some occasions.
And yet for all that, still it would seem that in their hearts they had not come to know him as the Son of God – all of course, except Peter. And when peter declares… ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God…’ he is making a confession that all must make if we would indeed truly know who Jesus is and what we have through Him.
Jesus is the key to the relationship we have with God…And unless we know Him – unless we really know Him here in our very hearts and souls, we can never be at one with God. And we see how pivotal this is in the response of Jesus to Peter. Because it is on the basis of this confession – and only on this, that Peter will become the rock on which the Church will be built.
Of course when we consider the many weaknesses and failings of Peter that we read of in the Gospel passages, it might seem odd to some that Peter should be chosen as the foundation of the Church of Christ. Some might point to others among the chosen twelve who would have been a more suitable or adequate foundation for this Church. Someone who was perhaps more stable or more consistent in their behaviour.
And yes, there may well have been others who might have been more plausible candidates for such an honoured position. Disciples like John, or perhaps Andrew, the brother of Peter. However Peter’s confession of Jesus showed that in Jesus, Peter clearly recognised, not just the work of someone who had been sent from God, but the work of God Himself…
But for all that, perhaps the real question that we need to consider is how we would answer that question – do we really know who Jesus is? Do we know Him here in our hearts and souls, with every ounce of our being? And why is it so important that we do know Jesus.
It’s only when we truly know Jesus and know Him to be the living Son of God that He is that we can begin to understand that He is with us at all times. Wherever we go and whatever we face, through His Son and by His Spirit, God will be with us. And that’s important for us to remember.
As I come to record this time of reflection, this has been a difficult and anxious week for many. The news of Covid 19 being in our community has shaken us all and our first thoughts are of course with all who have been affected most by this. And as we await more news and developments in the coming days, our anxieties and concerns may be heightened and people may yet have difficult decisions to make if certain limitations are imposed upon us once again.
It’s at times like this when a good community spirit is important and that as friends and neighbours we all do what we can to help and support one another. And during the period of lockdown that was certainly self-evident.
Yet even when we have that good community spirit, even when we know that we can depend upon the love and support of family and those closest to us, still we might feel as if there is still something else that we need to help us through each day.
And that something – that someone is the living Son of God.
Knowing that through His Son God is always with us makes all the difference. To know that He is within us as we face difficult and anxious days, gives us a sense of inner peace that no-one or nothing else can. However, not only does Jesus fill that gap in our lives that no-one or nothing else can fill. The love that He pours upon us and surrounds us with holds all of those other things that are so important to us together.
We can only love because God first loved us. And we can only show those acts of love – kindness, compassion, concern, care – because of the love that God has demonstrated to us through His Son in the same way. Yes, within every one of us there is a part of us that seeks to do just this – because we were all created in the image of God. But when we truly know Jesus in our lives and know the fullness of His love for us, all of a sudden a new dimension is added to this as we know His Spirit working within us.
Yes we may still be anxious, concerned, even fearful. But if we know the love of Jesus in our lives and know that through Him God is always with us, not only will it give us renewed courage and faith each day. It will enable us to share that love through acts of kindness, generosity and compassion towards others. And at times like this, surely that’s what we all need.
So over the coming days let’s consider and reflect upon this question that Jesus asks His Disciples…What about you, who do you say I am…And let’s ask for the faith and boldness to respond as Peter did, and then share that with others in all we say and do…..Amen.
Loving and Gracious God, we thank You for Your loving kindness towards us. For Your many gifts and blessings, and for the love of family and friends to share these blessings with. But we especially thank You for the love You have shown to us through Your Son and for the life we now have through that love. In joy and thankfulness we acknowledge that the whole of life is bound up in the mystery of faith and ask that as Your Disciples here and now, You would enable us to witness to that faith in all we say and do. Give to us a new desire, a new passion and a new energy to serve You as You have called us – to share the Good News of Your Son wherever we are and in whatever we do.
We remember today those whose faith has been tested in recent weeks through situations and circumstances they have encountered and experienced in their lives and we ask for Your hand to be upon them. We think of our young ones, now back at school, and pray that you would be with them and all the teachers and staff at our schools and that You would watch over them. And we especially think at this time of our own community here and all who have contracted this awful illness.
We pray for them and their loved ones and ask that You would keep them safe and close to You. And we think of the wider community and the impact this may have and again ask that You be with everyone within our community, especially those who are now a little more anxious or concerned because of this.
So as we look to the coming week, we ask that You would be with us and that You would watch over us and all our loved ones in all we do. And all this we would ask in Jesus name. Amen.