Sermon for the 23rd August 2020.
Exodus 1.8-2.10, Romans 12,1-8 Matthew 16, 13-20
May I speak in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
“Who do the people think I am and who do you think I am?” Two very searching questions from Jesus. But before we think about how we would answer these questions, let’s just look briefly at the context. Jesus had just spent 3 days with upwards of 5 thousand people, healing all their infirmities and diseases, teaching and feeding them. It was miracle after miracle and Matthew says “the people marvelled and praised the God of Israel.” And even after all this, the Pharisees demanded “a great demonstration in the skies” to prove Jesus was the Messiah.
We have the wonderful assurance of the Resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit to help us answer Jesus’ question, “who do YOU think I am?” and as with Peter, to recognise Him as Lord and Messiah, is itself a gift from God.
Our last hymn sums it all up so beautifully, You are the King of Glory! And the words just say everything in our hearts. And we can feel all warm and glowing inside but what does that actually mean for our lives. Knowing God and His salvation, power and glory, how does that impact our lives, if at all?
We have this well known and much loved story in Exodus of Moses and the evil Pharaoh. And we see what knowing God is all about, our faith and His faithfulness. We may sometimes forget the courageous midwives who refuse to obey Pharaoh’s commands and trust their God. They knew only stories of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the amazing rise of Joseph sold into slavery. Nothing had yet been written down, as Moses was not yet born. There was no Torah, no Old Testament; they just had faith in the God of their distant ancestors. And God was faithful; He protected them, gave them words to say and blessed them with children of their own. Their faith in God profoundly influenced the way they lived and God blessed them.
And Moses’ family. Such faith and courage in the face of severe punishment or death. We don’t even know their names, just that they were of the tribe of Levi. They showed such faith and trust and again God proved faithful in return. The courage of the mother and Miriam, her daughter are amazing examples of faith, in the One they knew as God. And Miriam showed such daring as she approached the Princess. The rest of the story we know, and it tells us so much about what knowing who God is means in our everyday lives, no matter how difficult and unfair things seem. God acts when His people trust and obey.
And this is what Paul is saying too. We estimate our worth in our faith not the success and values of the world. Sounds so easy, but how difficult that is. Sometimes it is easier to compromise, give way, try not to be different. Everything may seem out of control like the impact of this virus. But Paul says that knowing Jesus as our Lord means our lives should be new, different and fresh. We are part of His body, He acts through us on earth and any gift we are given we must use to His glory, doing the best we can. Knowing Jesus as Lord impacts us in every aspect of our personal and communal lives. Like the midwives defying Pharaoh to obey God and Moses being protected from the cruel Laws of Egypt, it may mean risks, it may mean we do something contrary to what the world expects, but as we show faith, God shows faithfulness. We sang, didn’t we, Great is Thy Faithfulness, and that must be held close in our hearts. His faithfulness is a gift to us beyond our wildest dreams. So why?
God loved us so much that He reconciled us to fellowship with Himself through Jesus. It was an act of pure sacrificial love. He forgave us because He loves us and there is now no barrier between ourselves and God, as our Father. That is awesome indeed. He has made us His children and we, through faith and knowing Him, begin day by day to take on the family likeness, take on family characteristics, values and ways of speaking and acting. As the body of Jesus, we take on His likeness during our own lifetime.
So when Jesus asks “who do you think I am?”, and we answer the Messiah, the Lord of Glory, our Saviour and King, it isn’t just words, it is a whole change throughout our lives and very being. Even if we can’t do it, we have faith He can change us by the gentle strength and power of His Holy Spirit.
So we can say without hesitation, I love you Lord. Amen.