Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sermon: Mark 8: 29 I Believe in Jesus Christ

If you were to stop 100 people on the street and ask them who Jesus is, what do you think they would say? You would expect to get a variety of answers - some people reckon Jesus didn’t exist, some that he was a good teacher, a kind man; others that he was the Son of God. But what does that mean?

What if we were to ask you that question. Who is Jesus? How would you answer? What would you say about him? I’m not going to put you on the spot here and now, but what would you say? It’s the question that runs right through Mark’s Gospel, and one that Jesus asks his disciples right in the middle of the Gospel.

Put yourself in the sandals of Simon Peter. In chapter 1 of Mark, this man Jesus comes along and calls you to follow him. You go, and spend time with him. There is no doubt that Jesus is a man. He eats, drinks, gets tired and sleeps. Jesus is a man. And yet, he’s not just a man. If you have a Bible near you, please open it to page 33 of the New Testament.

Jesus enters the synagogue in Capernaum, Peter’s home village. The congregation is astounded at his teaching - they’ve never heard anything like it; but then something more amazing happens. A man with an unclean spirit - a demon - cries out at Jesus: ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ Jesus drives the demon out, and do you see what the people do and say? ‘They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching - with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ (1:27) So who is this Jesus?

Jump on to chapter 2, Jesus heals the man let down through the roof on his bed. Jesus forgives his sin and makes him walk, and how does the crowd respond? ‘They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ (2:12)

Chapter 3, Jesus is casting out unclean spirits, who shout out at him: ‘You are the Son of God!’ (3:11) And it just keeps coming - Jesus doing these amazing things, and all the time the question keeps coming - who is this Jesus?

Then you’re in a boat. There’s a storm. A really bad storm, because even though you’re a fisherman, you’re convinced you’re about to drown. What’s worse is that Jesus is sleeping. Doesn’t he care? You wake Jesus, he gets up, calms the wind and the waves with a word. ‘And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (4:41).

Then comes the question. Jesus asks you what you think of him, who he is, and there’s no doubt: ‘You are the Messiah (Christ)’ (8:31) Christ is not just Jesus’ surname - Jesus Christ; rather it’s a title - Jesus the Christ. The Christ is the long expected King God was sending to rule and rescue his people. The Christ is God’s Son, God taking on our flesh.

It’s why Jesus can do the things he does - casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead to life, calming storms. The question keeps running through the rest of Mark’s Gospel until it is finally answered by the most unlikely of people. If you turn to Mark 15:39, Jesus has just died on the cross, dying like no other, hounded by the religious leaders; ill-treated by the Roman authorities; beaten and broken, crucified, and it’s as if the climax comes in those words uttered by John Wayne in ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ as the centurion declares: ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’

Jesus is fully man, but he is also fully God. This is what our second reading from Hebrews 1 was reminding us - Jesus is God’s Son, the reflection of God’s glory, the exact imprint of God’s very being. If you want to see what God is like, look at Jesus. As a Sunday School child once said, Jesus is ‘God with skin on.’

It’s why we say the Creed: ‘I believe in... Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.’ Jesus, God’s Son, who eternally existed with the Father and the Son, stepped into his creation, born as a baby in order to come and rescue us.

But why does it matter that Jesus is both fully God and fully man? What difference does it make to us? If Jesus was just a man, a good man, even the best man, he could not save us. He would be as weak as us, sharing our weakness and unable to do anything to help us. If Jesus was only God, and not a man, he would be powerful, but distant, unable to relate to us and our problems.

Jesus is fully God and fully man and so he is able to save us, help us, and intercede for us. He is the go-between between God and man, because he is both God and man. As Paul writes to Timothy: ‘There is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.’ Nothing less will do. Nothing less will save us. No one else can save us.

We see it through the rest of Hebrews, as you have the vision of who Jesus is right at the start - the Son of God, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his nature - this God took on flesh, came into the world, was made, for a little while lower than the angels, made purification for sins, identifies with us by calling us brothers, shares in our temptations, serves as our great high priest, prays for us, and lifts our humanity to the heights of his throne.

Perhaps you are more comfortable with Jesus the man, just one of us, while forgetting about his divinity. Or maybe you are drawn to the powerful divine Jesus, emphasising that so much that you forget Jesus is also human. Scripture affirms that Jesus is both God and man, and we really do need to hold both together, not in tension, but in perfect harmony, as we see them displayed in Jesus.

Perhaps you’ve never really thought about Jesus before. He has always seemed so distant. Can I encourage you to read through Mark’s Gospel this week, and ask yourself again this question - who is Jesus?

Only one can rescue us; only one reveals what God is like as he lives the perfect life, and dies in our place to save us from our sins and demonstrate his love for us. Only one who is raised to life, defeating death and giving us victory over the grave.

Jesus, is unique in history. And the question he asked of his disciples that day in Caesarea Philippi is the same question he asks each one of us: Who do you say that I am? How will you answer?

I believe in Jesus Christ God’s only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. This is the Jesus I believe and trust. Do you?

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 25th September 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment