March 26, 2023
• Rev. Mindie Moore
Throughout these weeks of Lent, we have been looking at the Questions that Jesus Asks. These questions have helped us understand ourselves and our faith better and I don’t know about you, but I think every single week, I have learned something about myself and a way I want to grow.
And so today we’re going to keep on looking at these questions. And today the question that we’re looking at is (SLIDE) “Who do you say I am?”
And when Jesus asks this question for the first time, people have been talking about him. He wants to know, “what are people saying?” And the truth is, people are still talking about Jesus today, and not just in this room on a Sunday morning. Just take a look (SLIDE- He Gets Us) at this ad campaign that’s running now and really got some momentum during the Super bowl. It’s called He Gets Us and a group of people paid over TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS to get people talking about Jesus over wings and beer.
So this question feels pretty relevant to me! And as I thought about it and thought about the ways that we talk about Jesus today, I was really curious what the real people in my life are saying about Jesus. So I went on my social media accounts and I just asked the question- Who do you say Jesus is?
Here are some of the responses I got: (SLIDE)
· Son of God
· A great spiritual leader
· My hope
I want to invite YOU to just jot down your answer on your notes app or if you have pen and paper with you or you can type it in the chat if you’re worshiping with us online.
Because I think a lot of how we answer this can be based on what we know and what we’ve experienced. Most of us, even if we aren’t super religious or haven’t been around church too much, we have some kind of framework for what we think about Jesus.
And we see this in the first response that the disciples give Jesus, when he asks what everyone else has to say about him.
They say things that are pretty predictable for what they would know. They compare Jesus to people like Elijah, John the Baptist, or just a really impactful prophet.
They say things that make sense. These aren’t WRONG answers.
But they also aren’t quite right. The problem with these answers is that while there is some truth to it, I mean Jesus was absolutely a prophet and an amazing teacher, but these answers didn’t tell the whole story. They miss some really important parts of who Jesus is.
And I think for Jesus, this conversation wasn’t like an ego boost. He wasn’t fishing for compliments or anything like that. I think for Jesus, it just REALLY mattered to him that if ANYONE was going to understand who he truly was, he wanted it to be these 12 people. He wanted it to be the people who he had spent so much time with. Who he had invested so much in. Who had willingly decided to give up a lot of what they had known in their lives to spend time with him. He didn’t want their answers to sound like everyone else’s because they had a different experience. There was something about being so close to Jesus and witnessing so many things that SHOULD have changed this group of people.
So Jesus basically takes them away, out of the noise and the busyness of their everyday lives so that they can have this critical conversation together. In William Barclay’s commentary on this passage, he says that it’s like Jesus took his disciples on a spiritual retreat. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a retreat, but something special happens when you get away like that. And Jesus knows that if they are going to really get to the place that he needs them to go, they need to be able to pay attention in a different way.
And what I love about that image of a Spiritual Retreat is that it reminds me of what we’re doing here during Lent. Now MAYBE you get away for an actual retreat away, but really you don’t have to. This whole time of year is set up to help us all focus on our faith in a different way than we normally would. Here at St. Luke’s, we say we’re going to be in groups, we’re going to meet new people, we’re going to have more intentional conversations, we’re going to serve, we’ll do Stations of the Cross, I mean, there are so many ways that we put our faith front and center during this time.
And when we create that kind of space, when we can be open to what God might be telling us or the ways that the Holy Spirit might be nudging us- there's a lot that can happen in that kind of space.
And I really do believe that it matters to Jesus what is happening in our faith. I’d even say that it is just as important to Jesus how WE answer this question of who we say that Jesus is, as it was for the disciples. Because as the church, what we believe about Jesus really matters and maybe even more than that- the way we answer this question has the power to shape everything about the way we live our lives.
And we have to careful when we look at this kind of question. Because you know the temptation here is to let it just live in our head. We can make a GREAT statement of belief. We can have a lot of beautiful words, we can craft paragraphs, but this question that Jesus asks is NOT just about what we think. It’s
not just about what we can recite or claim. If we really give attention to our answer to this question- our answers have the potential to really mess things up!
One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever heard about Jesus comes from a book that Shane Claiborne wrote called “Irresistible Revolution.” He says (SLIDE):
The more I get to know Jesus, the more trouble he seems to get me into.
And I think when we really do get to know Jesus, when we really find ourselves with a compelling answer to who Jesus is, it becomes incredibly difficult to just stay safe and on the sidelines of our faith. Because I think this question also comes with an invitation. (SLIDE) What will we DO about the things we say we BELIEVE?
And maybe it’s this undercurrent of action that makes Peter the PERFECT person to answer this question. Peter is by far my favorite of the disciples because he is all the things. He is impulsive, he is a little snarky, he is not a great rule follower, and very rarely do we look at Peter and think that he is this super holy unrelatable kind of person. He’s just so normal.
And how amazing it is that it’s this real, normal person who can look back at Jesus and say, (SLIDE)
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
Wow. THAT is a bold way to answer that question.
Because now Jesus isn’t some run of the mill prophet. He’s not a nice guy. He’s not an effective teacher. I mean, Peter is saying here, “Jesus- you are DIFFERENT. We’ve never experienced someone like you.” And Peter gives him this title, Christ which means “the anointed one.” And what he’s saying here is that even if he doesn't understand all that this title might mean, he knows that knowing Jesus changes things for him.
Don’t miss the fact that this is a really risky thing for Peter to proclaim. Yes, even in the company of his closest friends. NO ONE has said this about Jesus before. And here's Peter, making not only a statement of belief, but a commitment to how he’s going to be in relationship with Jesus going forward. He’s saying that because of what he’s experienced and who he has known Jesus to be, he is going to have a faith that might not look like everyone else around him, but it is a faith that is going to be big and bold and real.
And I know there are people listening to this today who have found yourself in that place too, who have felt like your faith has been one big risk. You’ve either been the only one with faith and you’ve kind of had to figure out what that is going to mean for you and how you’re going to live that out without much of a roadmap or an example.
Or you’ve been the only one who has experienced faith in the way that you have. Maybe you’ve started in one place and then went through a time of doubt or deconstruction and now your faith is really different. And it doesn’t look
anything like what you were told it was supposed to be or the people around you think it should. Maybe that’s even why you’re here right now, in the room or joining online, because you’re looking for something that makes sense and a community to ask those questions with. Maybe for some of you the risk today is just showing up.
I just hope you know, no matter WHERE you are on your faith journey, that (SLIDE) We don’t have to have it all worked out for God to be working in us. The power of our faith and our commitment isn’t having the answer RIGHT, it’s being willing to answer the question in the first place. It’s saying yes to letting Jesus take us places even if we don’t know what’s coming next or exactly what that will mean.
I think some of the most powerful commitments we make- we have no idea what we’re getting into. I mean, I think about what happens right here in this room, multiple times a year. People get married.
And as someone who has been married for almost 13 years, I can tell you, we had no clue! You just don’t. You make this amazing, public commitment to another person and then you very quickly learn that you didn’t just marry this wonderful person, you married their weird habits. You married their taste in music. You married the fact that they leave the kitchen cabinets open and so do other people in their family. Why??
But look! No matter WHAT the unknown of our commitments are- whether it’s marriage or faith or a new job or a move or
whatever...the mystery and the unknown doesn’t lessen the power of making them.
That’s true in life, and it is ESPECIALLY true with Jesus. Because as much as we are able to commit to Jesus, Jesus just takes it to another level. Look at how Jesus responds to what Peter has to say here: (SLIDE) I tell you that you are Peter.[b] And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. 19 I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)
And when Jesus told Peter he was going to be the ROCK that the church was built on, we know that he’s going to mess it up. Scripture tells us this. I mean, worship with us on Good Friday and you’ll hear what happens next. You will hear Peter, in his own words, DENY Jesus and totally do a 180 from everything he says here.
Who Peter says Jesus is can be shaky sometimes. But how JESUS sees Peter, and how Jesus sees us? That doesn’t change.
In fact, there’s this beautiful story in John 21, where we see just how life changing Jesus can be.
This story in John happens after Jesus’ death and resurrection. And it begins with what I think are some of the saddest words in scripture. It begins with Peter saying: “I’m going fishing.”
I’m not anti-fishing here. I do think they’re a little slimy and I don’t want to deal with the whole bait part of it, but actual fishing isn’t what makes this so sad to me. It’s sad because fishing was Peter’s life BEFORE he knew Jesus. That’s where Jesus found him. And it feels like, in this moment, that this person who declared these amazing things about Jesus...it feels like he’s right back there. It’s like it hasn’t even happened. And we’re left wondering if what Peter says he believes has actually changed anything at all?
But then Jesus shows up. And three times, he and Peter have this conversation. He says:
Peter, do you love me?
And Peter says Yes.
To which Jesus replies- Then feed my sheep.
And maybe another way to put this could be- Peter, remember who you said I am. Then remember who I say that YOU are. Remember what this means for how you live your life.
Because no matter what has happened, no matter how bad things have gotten or far away he’s gone from who he hoped to be, Peter is not the same as he was before he met Jesus. His experiences and his understanding of who Jesus is have absolutely gotten out of his head and into his life. He has a different purpose now because of who he says that Jesus is.
And I think we have to ask ourselves...is the same thing true for us? Does the way we answer this question of who Jesus is really
make a difference in who we are and how we live? Is our relationship with Jesus bigger than just a belief system and more like a way of life?
Or is just something that we let live up here?
See, the tension of this conversation is that (SLIDE) Jesus wants who we say he is to shape everything. Our whole actual lives. Not just part of it, not just the pieces that feel accessible or easy or fit on our calendars or we’d like to give- but ALL of it. ALL of us!
And yes, that is a little scary and maybe a lot bold, but letting Jesus shape all of us is always worth it. It might get us into a little bit of trouble, it might mess up who we thought we were going to be or what we planned to do, but it also might open up some really holy things. It might change our relationships, it might change the way we spend our money and our time, it might change the way we love each other.
It did for Peter. Because he let Jesus change all of him, he went from being a fisherman to being the builder and foundation of the church. IT MADE A DIFFERENCE. And not just for him. In fact, If we know who Jesus is and let what we know change the way we live- it might just change the world around us. And just like Peter, our lives can create some pretty amazing things.