A sermon based on Matthew 16:21-28
So who is Jesus?
So who is Jesus?
What was he like?
Why would we choose to follow him?
Why should you and why should I?
4 weeks ago we began this journey peeking in to the heart of our faith.
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
What does it mean here in Australia, in Brisbane within the Uniting Church?
Like travellers on the road to Emmaus
We walk shoulder to shoulder, companions in the road
We have sought to listen to Jesus and to his teaching
And now, on this day, we look back again after these 4 weeks:
Who is this man who lived 2 millennia ago?
Who is he who comes to be present with us now?
Who is this one coming to meet us from that promised future for which we hope?
Who is Jesus?
On this day as we ask again we are transported back through history
We stand in a moment of hope-filled anticipation with the disciples.
Peter has just declared who he believes Jesus is:
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Standing in this occupied territory, in this ancient dusty land,
This fallible and fickle man makes a claim about Jesus.
This man - this one that he is standing with -
He is the chosen one
In him is the hope of the world.
But, and this is a big but,
The distance between what Peter thinks this might mean
and what Jesus himself is about is a vast gulf.
Jesus looks into the eyes of Peter,
He looks into the eyes of his disciples
He looks at them with all of that hope shining there:
Hope that their lives could be better,
Hope that the Roman Empire might be thrust aside,
Hope that the promised land would be returned,
Hope that the world could be a better place.
Reflected in their eyes are hopes as well
Hope that our lives could be better,
Hope that you and I could feel more comfortable in our own bodies,
Hope that those we love may have a more full and fulfilled life,
Hope that the complex dangers of the world might be resolved.
With the shining eyes of hope we stand with the disciples
We stand like trusting children staring expectant
Listening for Jesus next words
Yet, what he says
The words that tumble from his lips
Do nothing short of destroying the very surety and hope
That Jesus has already given
The whiff of the divine lingers in our senses
But filled with hope in our hearts, we hear that
"Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem
and undergo great suffering
at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes,
and be killed... And be killed... And be killed...
and on the third day be raised."
Jesus words are so disturbing,
so disconcerting, so devastating, so death-filled
That Peter drags him aside
He begins to set him straight.
Jesus you've got it wrong!
You are mistaken,
You cannot, you must not,
You are forbidden this future.
But Jesus has not got it wrong
Regardless of the expectations of the disciples
Despite how we might think about who Jesus is
This is what God is doing in him.
Jesus ministry will culminate in his death and resurrection,
His ministry says so much to us
but in this moment 2 things speak to you, and you, and you and I this day:
First, that our own experiences of death are not the last word,
The resurrection comes.
Second, it says to us that Christ lives on -
This One, this Jesus is still leading us.
This is hope a beyond comprehension:
A hope captured
A hope written
A hope expressed in these words
"The Uniting Church acknowledges
that the Church
Is able to live and endure
through the changes of history
Only, [only] because its Lord comes,
[He comes] addresses, and deals with people
in and through the news of his completed work.
Christ who is present
when he is preached among people
[among you and you and you and I]
Is the Word of God who acquits the guilty,
who gives life to the dead, and
who brings into being what otherwise could not exist.
Through human witness in word and action,
and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
Christ reaches out:
to command attention and awaken faith;
he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings,
to be the disciples of a crucified Lord;
In his own strange way
Christ constitutes, rules and renews them as his Church...
constitutes, rules and renews us as his Church.
So, at this moment of hopefulness and confidence in Jesus identity
Jesus himself reveals to his disciples
the strange way the God will transform the world in him and through him.
Who is Jesus?
He is the risen crucified one!
Jesus lifts the disciples eyes and ours to another possibility, another future:
a future which sees beyond the present experiences and encounters of life.
A future which we now trust goes beyond generations,
beyond our very mortal life, beyond death and into new life.
A hope that comes to us from a future we cannot see not fully comprehend.
Can we really understand what it means to speak of a world where death and mourning are no more, where peace and love our language and life?
As we look into our own experience of life,
let alone the experience of the world at the moment
it is hard to hold on to hope.
It is in our faith in a crucified and risen Lord
that we can view life in this world with real hope.
This is why Jesus goes on to invite the disciples to continue to follow him.
To keep handing on a hope they do not fully comprehend,
to hand on a hope they cannot domesticate,
to hand on hope that surpasses their very lives.
The promise of God in Jesus is new life:
This is who Jesus is
So, may you take hold of that promise
That person, that relationship
And may you follow Jesus
All the days of your life.