By Rev Aly Tunstall
Readings: Matthew 16 13-20 & Romans 12 1-8
Who do you say Jesus is? I’m sure if you asked people this question you would hear many different answers. When Jesus asked the disciples: ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’, the disciples give multiple answers. Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, others Jeremiah, and still others a prophet.
Today I think if we asked the question we will be more likely to hear things like Jesus was a great teacher or he was a man with strong morals or he’s someone you could look up to, or someone you hear stories about. Some may even say that Jesus doesn’t exist.
If you are a Christian though and have a relationship with him, then your answer should be that Jesus is the Son of God, one of the Holy Trinity, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world and the one who is able to transform our lives when we put our trust in him.
I asked my son Callum this question, and he said Jesus is everyone’s Saviour because he died on the cross for us, so that we could be forgiven and go to heaven.
When Jesus asked the question who do people say the Son of Man is, he then makes it more personal – because then he looks straight at the disciples and he says ‘what about you, who do you say I am?’.
I don’t know why he asks them this, maybe because in the passage before, they don’t understand what he means when he’s talking about being on their guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Or if he just wants them to think about who he really is. But it’s Simon Peter who is the first one to answer.
He says this “you are the Messiah the son of the living God” – he knows who Jesus is. I’m not sure that he has a full understanding what Jesus was there to do, but he knows that he is the Messiah the Son of God.
Isn’t it wonderful though straight away Jesus says to him,
“good for you Simon, son of John, for this truth did not come to you from any human being but it was given to you directly by my father in heaven. And so I tell you, Peter: you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it”
Understanding who Jesus really is has a huge impact on our lives either for better or worse. What I mean by that is, if we just see Jesus as a good teacher or somebody with morals he’s just a man that might help us to think about things and might even inspire us to become nicer people – but it won’t bring about salvation for us.
If on the other hand, when we truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah the son of God and we live that out in our lives, we will be transformed, and we then have the promise of salvation through that relationship with him.
When we see him for who he really is and all he has done for us on the cross he becomes less about a fix on a Sunday morning to set us up for the week and more about a day to day life that is transformed through a relationship with him by his saving grace.
Jesus goes on to say to Simon Peter:
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom”
I think what Jesus is saying here is that he was entrusting Peter (after Jesus went back to be with his Father) to carry on the work that he was doing – to share the gospel, to pray for others, to heal in the name of Jesus, to fight for justice so on. Or in other words to be a part of the kingdom and bring others into the kingdom.
So, when we answer the question ‘who do you say Jesus is’ it says so much about ourselves, because what we truly believe is what’s lived out in our lives day to day. If we really believe that Jesus is who he says he is, this should show in our actions. By our expectations, it should guide our decisions, it should give depth and motivation in our commitment to following him, and it changes the way we treat others. When we come to Jesus and follow him, he also gives us the opportunity like Peter, to join in building the church and being part of the Kingdom. In Romans 12: 1-8 Paul appeals to us all, to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. Paul says this is the true worship that you should offer to God.
I think what Paul is saying here follows on from us understanding who Jesus is and as I say, knowing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God should, and can, change the way we live. So, what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? And what is true worship?
We need to look for a minute at what the OT says about sacrifice made to God. Under the old covenant, God accepted perfect animals as a sacrifice to say sorry for our sins. But that had to be done every year by the High Priest. When God sent Jesus, he became the once and for all sacrifice, so the OT process became obsolete (Hebrews9: 11-12). So, for those who are in Christ by virtue of his saving faith, the only acceptable worship and sacrifice is to offer ourselves to him completely and unreservedly to his service. That means we have to turn away from the ways of the world and live a life that is righteous before God.
Therefore, true or real worship is not just what we do on a Sunday morning in church, but rather everything we say and do. For example, putting someone before ourselves is worship. Providing for those in need is worship. Making the tea or cleaning the church is worship. Lending a listening ear is worship, praying for others is worship and so on.
The great thing is when we meet with Jesus and take to heart what Paul says about not being conformed to the standards of the world but allow God to transform you inwardly, a complete change of mind becomes a reality in our lives. We start to see things that we may have done before, that we may have even enjoyed, as wrong and unacceptable before God. But this can only truly happen when we recognise who Jesus is and what he did and does for us today.
One of the other things Paul points out to us that we need to take heed of is that we shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves and instead be modest in our thinking. Why? Because when we get arrogant and think that we’re more important than we really are, we start to think we’re that good – we can do it on our own. This takes away our need for Jesus and so instead of Jesus being the most important thing, we put ourselves in the place he should be. So, it becomes less about Jesus and more about us. That is not how it should be and it’s not what God wants.
Part of being a living sacrifice is using what God has given us in order to help others, grow the church and the kingdom. Thankfully, we don’t all have the same gifts. And the list we have, for example; serve, teach, encourage etc is not exhaustive, when we use these and others, we begin to work together like a well-oiled machine and we see the blessings of God in our lives.
So I think as we move forward as the body of Christ we need to ask ourselves the question who is Jesus to us, if he is who he says he is we need to start looking to him to see where he is in mission, what vision he has for us our church and community, and join him there.
Let us be living sacrifices for Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.