WHO do you say that I am? This is a question which Jesus asks his disciples, and it is a question which we and the rest of the world need to answer.
In this morning’s Gospel we have a difficult picture set before us. Our Lord goes back to his home town. He teaches in the synagogue, and people who have known him all his life are amazed when they hear him. He is wise; he works miracles, but can only be understood by those who hear him in terms of the life they have seen him lead. The people of Nazareth know Jesus according to the flesh; but their very familiarity with him is a hindrance to knowing him truly, for it makes it all the more hard for them to see through the veil of his ordinariness. It is a case in point of the familiar saying ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’.
What then does Jesus look like without faith then? Human, just a man like you or me? But what then do we make of the miracles, the teaching, and the healing? How does he rise from the dead? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t add up, unless Jesus is simply not just a human being, but also the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God Incarnate.
Either Jesus was a mad fool, or he was what he said he was. What we believe, our faith, matters. That is why we will recite the words of the Creed in a few minutes, simply because it matters. It isn’t enough to think that Jesus was a nice bloke who did nice things, healed people, and told them to love one another. He did what he did, and said what he said because he was God, a God who became incarnate, became flesh and dwelt among us, a God who who loves us, who died for us and rose again, and feeds us with himself, so that we might become what he is, so that humanity might become divine.
It’s a serious matter, it relates to the salvation of all humanity. The world may say that Jesus was just a human being, and nothing more. But on this, and indeed on many other matters, we have to say that the world is wrong, and that the church should not follow it. It is difficult, but to be prophetic means to speak the truth to power. And so, to a world which sees itself as liberal, as rooted in the values of the Enlightenment, we, as the church, have to say no. We have to believe and trust in a God who lived among us, who saves us. We are to conform the world to the will of God, rather than conform God’s church to the will of the world. We are to express our faith in the God who loves us, who feeds us and who saves us. We are to confess this with our lips, but also live it in our lives. It’s a difficult thing to do, but with God’s help, and by helping each other to do it together, we can, and thereby give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion, and power, now and forever.