Knowing Jesus

Revd. Heather
Sunday, August 23, 2020 - 9:30am

I remember writing one of my early supervision essays at theological college on the early church, and going to meet my supervisor a few days later, when she said: “Well you’ve covered what the various theologians think, but it’s a little bland. It needs some pepper. What do you think?” 

Today’s Gospel reading follows a similar format. First Jesus asks the disciples ‘Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?’ and they give their answers. They make reference to several great Biblical figures, to people who have pointed towards God in their lives. And then Jesus gets to the crunch: ‘But who do you say that I am?’ to which replies: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 

Peter recognises Jesus, not as one who points towards God, but as one who is God. Jesus is not only one who knows about God, Jesus is God. And Jesus goes on to explain that God has revealed this to Peter. Peter has been growing in faith throughout Matthew’s Gospel: we heard just a couple of weeks ago that he trusted Jesus enough to give walking on water a go; this week we hear that Peter has the faith to recognise Jesus as the Messiah. 

All the time that Peter has spent with Jesus since he was first called to leave his fishing nets and follow him, has enabled his relationship with Christ to deepen. Peter has not only come to know about God through Jesus Christ, but to know God through Jesus Christ.  Peter has observed the healings of mercy, heard the sermons on justice, and twice tasted bread multiplied and shared with thousands. But what is more, Peter and Jesus have spent a lot of time together, and they have a direct, personal relationship with one another. 

Jesus longs to have that same personal relationship with each of us. Jesus knows each of us. We are reminded of that in daily prayer. Morning Prayer on a Thursday has the wonderful words from Isaiah 43: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.’

Jesus knows each of us, and longs for each of us to know Him, to know his mercy, his justice, his generosity. Part of this comes through knowing about God – through reading, through what others share of their experience of God. But our relationship with God is strengthened most when it is direct. When, like Peter, we spend time with Jesus:

  • when we spend time reading scripture slowly and listening to what God may be saying to us through the Word
  • when we come to Jesus as a friend in prayer, bringing all that we experience – the encounters we have with people or ideas or culture, when we bring all that we are to Jesus in prayer. When we trust Jesus as one with whom we can share our deepest longings, our deepest fears, our deepest joys. How we each do that will vary – for some posture is so helpful and kneeling to say prayers; for others prayer time may be sitting on the sofa and talking with Jesus with a cup of tea in hand; for others it may be going for a walk with Jesus through the streets or countryside. There are myriad ways in which we might draw close to Jesus. 

And as our friendship with Jesus grows, we allow Jesus to change us. It is quite natural really: so often the people we spend time with help to shape us. The conversations we have pique our interest in different art forms, tv programmes, voluntary opportunities, issues of social justice, activities, places to visit. Likewise, time spent with Jesus helps to shape us to be inspired by Him, to reconfigure our priorities, to allow our lives to be changed, transformed by God’s love, to try to reflect God’s love.

Simon Peter knew what it was to have his life transformed by Jesus: from fisherman to friend and follower, to the rock on which Jesus built the church. Peter’s life was transformed when he responded to the call to follow Jesus. As we spend time with Jesus, who do we hear him call us to be?

As we heard in our reading from Romans this morning, there are many callings, many giftings that Jesus has given us. We each have different callings, different giftings, so that together we can be the body of Christ. Today in Romans Paul speaks of ‘prophecy, in proportion to faith;  ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.’

Each of us has a different relationship with Jesus, and a different calling, and there are many ways in which we might live out our faith, and reflect God’s mercy, justice, generosity and love in the world. As we journey together as a Christian community, how is your relationship with Jesus shaping you? Who is Jesus calling you to be?