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Ordinary 24 Year B

Confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi by Peter

Mark 8:27-38
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.

For the first human admission of who Jesus is, Mark shows Jesus travel from Lake Galilee to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi had originally been called Baalinas. It was the place where the worship of Baal was centered. Then it was called Paneas, a place where the Greek god Pan had been worshipped. Finally it was known as Caesars city, because Philip had built there a tremendous white temple to the godhead of Caesar. It was also known as the source of the Jordan, Jesus is in the shadow of this great city, upon Jesus at this time look down the gods of Palestine and Greece, the history of Israel and the might of imperial Rome. In this shadow of greatness, Jesus the poor Galilean carpenter, asks his sorry bunch of disciples who they think he is.

Peter shows that God has been at work in his heart and he is able to recognises that Jesus was ‘The Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ Jesus tells Peter that God has revealed this to him, and he calls him a ‘rock’ on which the church will be built. This means that Peter is the first person to discover who Jesus is and everyone who follows and makes that same discovery is another stone built on this foundation.

Jesus does not want this message to be published at large at this time, in the 70 years before Jesus there had been 17 rebellions in which 57,000 Jews were killed. This was not time for another blood bath, and Jesus had a different plan. However Jesus at this point has reached a watershed, there was at this point that moment of no return. Jesus from here makes an inevitable journey to the cross.

There are two types of bravery, there is bravery when you do something almost without thinking, indeed if you thought about it you might not do it. People throw themselves into swollen rivers to save people and animals, often drowning as a consequence, they just see the need and jump. However there are other situations when people have time to consider what they are doing, they face the danger and sacrifice, they could escape, but they do not. I have a great deal of respect for these people.

A young man who offers his own bone marrow to help somebody who he has never seen, who goes through the hospital tests, arranges time of work, faces the operation—these types of things I admire greatly.

In Homer’s Illiad, Achilles is told by his mother Thetis that if he goes out to battle he will certainly die, and his answer is ‘Nevertheless I am going on.’

William Tyndale gave the Bible in English to the English people. The church of the day did not want the common people to have the scriptures and they burned his Bible. Tyndale said, ‘no doubt they will burn me too, if it be God’s will.’ It was eight years before they did eventually burn him, and he waited those eight years for his death.

Jesus was in this mould. He knew the danger and what lay ahead and he refused to be put off course. This was not a particular gift of fore knowledge, anybody in their mind would know that if Jesus went to Jerusalem and continued to say the things which he was saying then it would end in his death. The Roman Empire was strong and powerful yet Jesus was completely lacking in awe of worldly power or values. Jesus created his own values.

But this morning is not a day in which we simply admire Jesus. He has a call to each one of us also and he makes it in this passage. He tells us that we must be like him "Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." Today we seek to model ourselves on Jesus -

  1. When surrounded by the power of influences which surround us. Are we able to live independently by God’s values and not conform to the world around us?
  2. Would we be prepared to do so if it brought us directly into situations of conflict?
  3. Are we prepared to consider and think through our ideas and values, to make sure that we are being transformed to live more like Jesus wishes us, rather than conforming to the prevalent opinions of our day.

This is so difficult in our time because we are surrounded by powerful influences which tempt us to have a distorted view of life which is not according to the teaching of Jesus . We do not live in the shadow of Caesarea Philippi but there is substantial pressure from powers about us. We are called to be in the world, not to retreat into solitude like the pillar saints, but to be in the midst of the chaos of our society. In the shadow of the malevolent forces which seeks to corrupt us and are society are we prepared to stand against the tide? Are we prepared to say like Jesus that if we seek self fulfilment we will never be fulfilled.

Jesus tells us that it is only as we serve and give to others that we are truly filled. Is it any wonder that our society is so lacking in fulfilment?

You might think that the message of the sermon today is that we must be brave like Jesus. Well no, it’s not. Jesus was able to continue resolute in his ministry because he depended upon God’s strength. If we are to dare to stand out as lights in the dark places of our world and demand kingdom values and witness to the Gospel of Christ, then we do not need to be strong or courageous, we need to be faithful. God will give to us the strength that we need to carry out his will for our lives. Charlese Royden