Two weeks ago we heard Jesus’ followers exclaim, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Last week we heard the Canaanite woman call Jesus into an expansive and inclusive ministry. Today we hear Jesus ask, “who do you say I am. And Simon Peter announces on behalf of the band of disciples, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Who do you say I am, Jesus asks each one of us. Who do you say Jesus is? We come here, every Sunday morning, and who do we say Jesus is? Who do we say Jesus is when we arrive at work on Monday morning? Who do we say Jesus is when we arrive at school each day? Who do we say Jesus is when we are sitting in traffic, or deciding how to spend our hard earned money, or wondering about what government services should be cut, or when considering the violent events in our country and our world?
Who do you say I am? Like Peter, I announce Jesus is the son of the living God. But I also think those are just words, unless they are backed up by what I do with my time, my talent, and my treasure, how I make my decisions and how I treat people. You and I aren't the kind of people who have a ready answer to the question, who do you say I am? The words don't come easily, but I guarantee the words don't really matter if our lives don't speak of mercy and compassion.
Jesus is teaching disciples in these stories. Jesus is trying to impart all he knows and all he is as he prepares for his last days in Jerusalem. Jesus is developing followers, you and I are followers of Jesus, our work is to live the answer to the question, who do you say I am, with our words and with our lives.
What you do this week will change the world. In the Exodus story, a single act of resistance saved an entire people. The King had commanded that all male babies be killed. The baby in our story, Moses, was hidden from that awful fate, by the midwives who caught him, until the daughter of Pharoah found him and raised him as her own. Moses went on to lead his people out of Egypt into a new land and a new life, Moses led his people from slavery into freedom. Like Shiphrah and Puah, what you do this week will change the world. We just don't know how what we do will effect that change, but it will, and it does. Who do you say I am? How your life answers that, makes a difference.
Last week I said to you that our words matter. This week I say to you that what we do matters. Jesus’ teaching is to love your enemies, to come before God in prayer and in worship, and to forgive one another. And that Jesus’ life will be given for ours. This is the kingship in which the God who created the heavens and the earth inaugurates a new creation. And even the ancient story of Moses shows us that what we do matters to God and matters to the world.
Who do you say that Jesus is? This question presupposes that what we believe about Jesus matters. What we believe about Jesus matters to you and to me, it matters to our church, and most importantly it matters to the world.
It also assumes a relationship; there is no way to begin to say who Jesus is without the relationship. And in this relationship with Jesus, we learn who we really are. In response to Peter’s naming Jesus, Jesus tells Peter who he really is. You are Peter, a rock. In this relationship, Jesus knows who we really are, we are named and marked as Christ’s own forever, you are my beloved, the delight of God’s life.
I think this is the most important part of this story. It is not so much about the right answer to the question who do you say that Jesus is, but it is very much about the relationship the question presupposes, you are the delight of God’s life. We might not be very good answering the question with words, but we can begin to show the world that Jesus matters, that this relationship with Jesus matters.
That brings us to the image that is presented in Romans, we, who are many, are one body in Christ. This is an amazingly counter cultural image, one body, with different graceful gifts. This new creation that God inaugurates in Jesus is all about a completely new way to live on this earth. We live not for ourselves, but for the greater good of God’s creation. Do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the amazing and abundant love that God has for you.
How do we live in the world as the body of Christ? How do we live in the world as the delight of God’s life? How do we live in the world as people to whom Jesus matters? How do we live in the world as agents of new creation? How do we live in the world as a people transformed by God’s love? I think we do that by showing forth love not only for those it is easy to love, but for those we count as enemies as well. I think we do that by showing mercy and compassion. I think we do that by caring for God’s creation. I think we do that by showing up in our lives with intention, with love, with mercy, and with compassion.
So now we come back to the question, who do you say that Jesus is? This is not just a rhetorical question. We must answer it. I want you to know your answer to it. Our answer to it matters, because what we do matters, what we say matters, and that can change the world. And our world needs changing. Who do we say Jesus is?
Jesus is God in our midst. Jesus is the love that wins. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the Light. Theses are words, words that matter. And this is a life that matters. When we say these words, with Peter and the disciples, as followers of Jesus, and as part of the body of Christ, we stand for love, we stand for truth, we stand for light. We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, we love when hate seems pervasive. We include when others call for exclusion. We must stand against powers and principalities that would condone and cause violence against any group of people.
Like the midwives who caught Moses as he was born, and chose life over death, today, we must be midwives. We must choose life, we must choose love. Our lives will tell the world who Jesus is.