“Who do you say I am?”

A sermon by The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft

16 September 2019 Choral Eucharist

Based on Wisdom 7:26-8:1, Psalm 19:1-6, James 2:18-26, Mark 8:26-38

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

We have just heard in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus ask Peter “But who do YOU say that I am?” and Peter answers “You are the Messiah”.

As we read scripture as the living Word of God so we are invited to hear Jesus ask each one of us “Who do YOU say that I am?”

This week I asked four of our parishioners this same question and they each gave me permission to share their answers. The first one said that “Jesus is all of us walking in his footsteps, evidenced by all the love and support she has received. She said that the genuine love of others at this very difficult time in her life has made her feel integrated, whole, complete and safe.” This speaks directly to our Epistle reading that we demonstrate our faith by our works.

It reminds me of the beautiful prayer that our choristers pray before each service. It ends with:

That what we sing with their lips we may believe in their hearts

And what we believe in our hearts may show forth in our lives.

The second parishioner said that Jesus is our example of how to live. The third, said that Jesus is our friend. These seemingly simple statements are packed with wisdom. The fourth person, a three year old, gave an even briefer answer. “Who is Jesus?” I asked her. “God” she said. I thought, wow!

Then she said “I’ve got an idea. Let’s read my book about Jesus.” (She has a copy of this Children’s Bible from our Cathedral Gift Shop). She wanted me to start at the story of Jesus’ birth and we read through to his presentation in the temple to his first miracle. She interrupted at that point and said she wanted to hear about Jesus riding on the donkey. Once I had read that story she wanted to stop. She didn’t want to hear about Jesus being crucified on a cross.

I later reflected at how interesting this was. It is so similar to Peter’s response. When Jesus asked him “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied “You are the Messiah”. He didn’t want to hear about The Son of Man, undergoing great suffering either. This is not what Peter expected of a Messiah. His expectation was fulfilled in chapter 11 when Jesus and his disciples stage a “messianic” demonstration, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah in the oracle in chapter 9.9-10

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

Triumphant and victorious is he,

Humble and riding on a donkey,

On a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Peter was expecting a peasant king riding on a donkey like in 1 Kings 1.38, when Solomon rode on King David’s mule and led him into Gihon where he was anointed king by the priest Zadok. He was expecting that the Messiah would be victorious over the powers of evil, not to be despised, rejected and crucified and then rise again. No-one could have expected that he would achieve our salvation by sacrificing Godself on the cross. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him.

Jesus in turn, rebuked Peter in startling terms “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

We may similarly struggle in finding the tension between Jesus being fully human and fully divine. We may be tempted to either think that he is so human, he can’t possibly be God the Son, the third person of the Trinity OR that he is so divine that he only appears to be human. The Father doesn’t punish the Son on the cross for our sins.  God the Son, fully human and fully divine, sacrifices Godself on the cross for our redemption. God became human so that we might become divine. The incarnate God, the fleshly Jesus is our Emanuel, God with us. Fully human and fully divine. This is who we say Jesus is when we say our Nicene Creed after each sermon.

The Nicene Creed takes its name from the Council of Nicaea in the year 325, where the question ‘In what way was Jesus, God and Man?’ was debated. We will shortly affirm that with regard to Jesus,

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

The only Son of God,

Eternally begotten of the Father

God from God, Light from Light,

True God from true God,

Begotten, not made,

Of one being with the Father;

Through him all things were made.

We reaffirm our understanding that the Son is eternally begotten not created and that through him all things were made. It is at this point that I make the connection with our magnificent creation psalm which is today’s Psalm 19. It begins with “The heavens declare the glory of God”.

When we are struck by the glory of God in a spectacular sunrise or a stunning sunset or in nature generally, we may be reminded that all things were made through Jesus.

It’s like the Gospel of John chapter 1:1-3 says:

In the beginning was the Word (which is Jesus)

And the Word was with God,

And the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through him,

And without him not one thing came into being, etc.

Every time I look at our beautiful Magdalene Window, I am struck by the outstretched arms of Jesus embracing all of creation, and of the rainbow that is birthed through the empty tomb. I am reminded that Jesus, the risen Christ, is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for [us]. Hebrews 7:25. I am reminded that all things were made through him and that reminds me of the Son’s divinity. He is eternally God as are the Father and the Holy Spirit.

I can’t finish without a brief mention of the beautiful Wisdom Reading. St Paul argues in Corinthians 1:24 that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Wisdom 7:27 says in every generation she (wisdom) passes into holy souls, and makes them friends of God, and prophets. And the last line of our Wisdom reading 8:1 confirms for us again that all things were made through Jesus when it says She (ie Jesus) reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well. Wisdom therefore, is the agent of creation and salvation and as 7:27 says God loves nothing more than a person who lives with wisdom.

Rowan Williams in his book “Being Disciples” that some of us are studying on Mondays, encourages us as a “Church to become a place sufficiently still for [us] to open up, sufficiently quiet and unanxious for [us] to learn that [we] can receive what the ultimate truth of the universe wants to give [us].”[1]

May we each be open to receive the wisdom of Jesus.

May we recognise both the humanity and divinity of Jesus.

May we discuss who Jesus is with one another, and those whom we meet.

May we take up our cross daily

And follow in his redeeming work.



[1] Rowan Williams, Being Disciples, 33.