Many of us, every day follow some form of directions or instructions. They may be given to us at work by someone more senior to us, they may be instructions in a manual or online and many of us use a Sat Nav in our cars to complete unfamiliar journeys.
I have very little sense of direction when it comes to driving, I have only been driving for a couple of years, when I passed my test my husband bought me a Sat Nav knowing how bad my sense of direction really was. I follow my Sat Nav with absolute faith that it will get me where I need to be. I have done this without worry or question for most of my driving experience.
A few weeks ago in the early hours of the morning I was making a trip to take someone home who lived just the other side of Bewl water. I was confidently using my Sat Nav when I can to a roundabout that was closed for roadworks, as I have never had to navigate myself I did not know how to divert to get where I needed to go. I was lost and felt quite vulnerable in the middle of no where in the dark. I believed that my Sat Nav could get to any place I wanted to go and in the past two years that is exactly what it had done, I was wrong. The SAT Nav had not changed but understanding of it now has.
Peter and the other disciples had followed Jesus, they left their own lives in Galilee and after being called by Jesus as one of the chosen 12, they followed him without question, they did so with faith. At the time of making that decision I wonder if they really knew what it meant to follow Jesus, did they really understand who Jesus was. These men would have be taught from the scriptures in the old testament, and they recognised Jesus as the King of the Israelites that had been prophesied in the old testament, after all they had witnessed him heal the sick and command unclean spirits. In the passage just before the reading today Jesus had asked his disciples “who do you say that I am? “ Peter replies confidently that Jesus is the Messiah.
Peter had followed Jesus for some time at this point, he had heard many of his teachings and seen him perform many miracles such as the feeding of the five thousand, walking on water and curing the deaf and the blind. So why then with the confident belief and faith that you have in someone who you know well and have journeyed with for some time does Peter in verse 33 take Jesus to task when he teaches them that he must suffer and die.
Peter lives in a time when the Jewish people were living under the severe rule of the Romans where they experienced regular beatings and executions. Peter would have expected Jesus to be a great warrior King to lead the Jewish people to fight against the Romans and free them from oppression. The news that Jesus was to suffer and die must have come as a shock to Peter. He had given his life to Jesus and was now being told that Jesus would leave them. Peter’s idea of who Jesus was, of what his mission was and what it meant to be the messiah was wrong. Peter knew Jesus personally, he journeyed with him, ate with him and rested with him yet he still made and error. This could reflect our own relationship with Jesus, although we may not have the opportunity to know Jesus in the same way that Peter did, it is comforting to know that even with an intimate relationship with Jesus mistakes can still be made, it is okay to make mistakes in our relationship and understanding of Jesus. If I asked each of you who is Jesus there may be some variation to the answers given.
He was a man who lived around 2000 years ago
He was a teacher
He is God
Once we have gained a deeper understanding of who Jesus is it may change the way that we follow him. If we believe as Peter did that Jesus is a warrior King who came to free his people from oppression is it easier to follow him, would this be to join the armed forces who fight for God, Queen and country to defend our country, or support the various organisations working abroad to try to bring or maintain peace in other countries.
If our understanding is that Jesus is a teacher of morality and a better way of life do we follow his teachings to live a good life, do good deeds, love one another? Is this what Jesus is referring to in verse 34 when he says “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I think he meant a bit more than this.
In the first century if you were seen carrying a cross it would have meant that you were going to die upon the cross for some criminal activity that you had been found guilty of. I don’t think that Jesus wanted us to die upon the cross either, not literally. “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Galations 2 verse 20. This is where I think Jesus was going with this, when we accept Christ and all that that encompasses around the trinity, we leave a life behind and begin a new one with Christ at the centre. It is not about good deeds or fighting for peace it is more than that it is the everyday it is who are and you become inseparable from Christ. This is a full transformation this is having 100% love for God and loving our neighbour as ourselves – this is hard. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.
So the next question should be if this is so hard why should we bother, why should we take up our cross daily, why live a life that pleases God and not ourselves. If we go back to the passage Jesus says “those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” by denying the life we want we will gain something much better, we will have everything we need, to follow God is to really live. It doesn’t matter if we make mistakes, God accepts that, that is why Jesus says we must take up the cross daily that is why we regularly take communion together, worship together and ask for forgiveness together. Giving our lives to God often start with a baptism and today we have the privilege of being witness to Kayleigh, Faith, Luke and Keira as they start to live that new life with God. We also have out part to play in this to support, pray and guide these young people to develop their relationship with God.
I would like to finish with a section from CS Lewis in his book Mere Christianity:
“ I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him, I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic- on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil in hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to”.