St James' Church West End Come and see for yourself

‘Who do you say that I am?’

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 23 August 2020:  Trinity 11
Matthew 16:13-20

May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; Amen

‘Who do you say that I am?’

This question marks a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. A pivotal opportunity for the disciples to show their allegiance. Reaching the brink of His final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus asked: ‘Who do you say that I am?’

In an answer revealed by God, Simon responds to the challenge; earns the name Peter and the keys of the kingdom. Jesus’ question is the same for each one of us today. So, how will we answer? Who do we say Jesus is, and will we let God’s Spirit speak through us and find a new purpose to our lives?

Jesus held no I.D, no Birth or Baptism Certificate, yet we can fathom His identity through the disciples’ experiences of hearing Him preach and the recollections of those who witnessed His healing miracles; some from whom he cast out demons even declared His name, and the few who were in the boat when He calmed the storm, and the thousands whose minds were fed through parables and beatitudes and whose bellies were filled with fish and loaves, showed signs of recognition.

Having heard Him speak of kingdom values, the disciples sense increasing opposition by the authorities, as Jesus’ popularity increased. In the hostile territory of Caesarea Philippi Jesus responds to being wrongly identified [as a prophet returned from the dead] with the direct question: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon identifies and names Him as the long-awaited Messiah.

Shortly we will identify and name Jesus as our Lord in making the declaration: ‘The Lord is here – His Spirit is with us!’ And yet – and yet – who is the Lord who we proclaim? Are we ready to personally reply to Jesus’ question that is as much for us today as for the disciples over 2000 years ago?

Jesus asks us ‘Who do you say that I am?’

When we sense that God is calling us by name, it is the Holy Spirit that shapes our identity of who we are in Christ, the same Spirit as enabled Simon Peter to express the truth of Jesus’ identity, will fit us for discipleship in Jesus’ name and will help when we struggle to find answers on the journey of faith.

Jesus asks us to examine our own lives and answer His question.

It is one thing to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ when our lives are good, yet who do we say Jesus is at times of personal or national tragedy? As Covid rates and the number of desperate people crossing the Channel increase?

Who do we say Jesus is when we, or a loved one, receive a devastating diagnosis or when personal circumstances, even the darkness of mental ill health drags us down? When we are unable to attend church; or worship and prayer fail to provide the spiritual nourishment we seek?

When we invite Jesus into our lives, God’s Spirit will reveal the love, strength and hope that spring from a true relationship with Him, not just on Sundays or in the company of other Christians, but every day and even in the dark stretches of life’s journey.

Jesus knew Simon, as Peter, would face difficulties, fail Him by falling asleep at Gethsemane, even deny knowing Him – yet, trusted and blessed, Peter is given the keys to establish kingdom values, with the express message that, for the disciples, the time was not yet right to tell others the truth of Jesus’ identity.

Jesus asks: ‘Who do you say that I am?’

As Easter people, inspired by the Holy Spirit, now is the right time to tell the truth of Jesus’ identity and share, by example, the keys that help build His church and His kingdom: faith, love, obedience, prayer and witness! Jesus’ question marked a turning point in His ministry, provided a pivotal opportunity for the disciples to show their allegiance – so, in this strange time when worship is restricted and many churches remain closed, will we grasp the opportunity to seek ways and times to be outspoken like Peter in declaring Jesus is the Messiah, Lord and Saviour of the world?

When we take time to consider Jesus’ question and pray for God’s Spirit to speak through us, we can find a fresh purpose for our lives and discern new ways to share the gospel now and always. Amen.