esus Christ our Messiah!
Exodus 1: 8-2:10
Romans 12: 1-8
Matthew 16: 13-20
‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Romans 12:2
Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.
“But who do you say that I am?” That is the question Jesus asks us today.
And here are a couple of answers I’ve heard. He’s my personal Lord and Saviour. He’s my life, my everything. He’s my friend and brother. He’s my rock, comforter and teacher. He’s the Son of God and the Son of Man. God incarnate. The list could go on. At some point we have all probably been told who Jesus is. Maybe you heard it from priests, religious instructors, teachers, parents, friends, whanau or in bible and prayer groups. Maybe you read about him in books or from Sunday school lessons or seen his name on bumper stickers. Maybe you saw him mentioned on social media or on the internet, or heard his name in a song. Some of the answers may have been helpful to you. Some were not. Some answers were just plain silly and some even hurtful and destructive. Regardless, the question remains.
By now, most of you will know that I won’t answer that question for you. I can’t. Each of us must answer it for ourselves. It’s not a theology or Bible exam. It’s more of an examination of our own lives. I don’t think Jesus is asking us to just parrot back the answers we’ve heard or read. That’s probably why he pushes the disciples to move from what they are hearing around them – John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets – to what they are hearing within themselves. “But who do you say that I am?” This is not an easy question. And that is why I always challenge you not to settle for “Sunday Jesus” answers. You know, the easy, not to hard, feel good and sentimental anwers. Because you and I know, that life isn’t always easy, feel good, or sentimental. Life get’s tough. Some of you are experiencing that already. It’s one thing to say who Jesus is at Te Wairua Tapu on a Sunday morning. But it’s a very different thing to say who he is outside of that context. The question is never just for the brain or it’s just an idea. It always has a context.
This is what I mean. Who do we say Jesus is as Covid-19 continues to spread, as detainees and refugees cry out in need, as people in Sydney are homeless, go to bed hungry, live with domestic violence, or have no work and can’t support their families? Who do we say Jesus is when a loved one dies or the doctor gives us news we didn’t want to hear, or our life seems to be falling apart? Who do we say Jesus is when we are faced with tough decisions that have no easy answers, when the storms of life overwhelm us, when faithfulness means risking it all and taking a stand against louder and seemingly more powerful voices? Using the context of these few examples, what does it mean to say Jesus is my personal Lord and Saviour, my rock or my brother and friend? What does it mean to say Jesus is my life or my teacher?
In other words, who we say Jesus is has everything to do with who and how we are and how we will be. In some ways our answer says as much or more about us than Jesus. It reveals how we live and what we stand up for. It guides our decisions, and determines the actions we take and the words we speak. It describes the expectations and demands we place on Jesus. It reveals the depth of our motivation for and commitment to following him. Jesus’ question isn’t so much about getting the right answer as it is about witnessing and testifying to God’s life, love, and presence in our lives and the world. It’s less about our brain and more about our heart. It’s grounded in love more than understanding. It moves us from simply knowing about Jesus to knowing him.
In some sense there is no once and for all, final and forever answer. We are always living into the question. Who Jesus was when we were children is different from who he was when we were in and 30s or who he is for us today. Hopefully, who Jesus is for us next year will be different from who he is today because 2020 has and continues to be a huge challenge for all creation. It’s not that Jesus has changed. We have. We are constantly engaging with his question and in so doing, we not only discover more about Jesus but we discover more about ourselves.
Sometimes we discover a disconnect between the “Sunday Jesus” whom we sing and talk about for 1 hour and the life we live the other 167 hours of our week. And that’s scary. Our words and actions don’t line up. I don’t say that as a judgment about anyone but to acknowledge just how hard it can be to recognise and live the truth that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Don’t dispair, there have been more than once that I’ve fallen into the gap between my “Sunday Jesus” kind of answers and the circumstances of my life and the world. Sometimes my answers were too simple, too small and too easy. They were no match for the complexities of life and the pain of the world. Other times my life has not reflected what I said about who Jesus is. Sometimes I kept quiet when I should have spoken up. Other times I’ve been passive when I should’ve acted. Whenever I’ve fallen into that gap or trap, it has usually been because I was trying to stay in my comfort zone or play it safe. That almost never works.
There is nothing safe about the question Jesus poses. “But who do you say that I am?” How could there be? There is nothing safe about Jesus or the life to which He calls us. Jesus’ life and presence among us call into question everything about our lives, our world, the status quo, and business as usual. That’s why we ought not answer his question too quickly, too easily or with too much certainty. It’s not a question to be figured out as much as it’s a question to be lived out. Like Peter, can you and I answer with conviction, ‘Yes Lord,’ ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Amen.
Archdeacon Kaio Karipa
Living God, you sent your Son Jesus to your people. Embolden your church to proclaim Jesus as Messiah, and to trust in him. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu