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Who is Jesus and What difference does that make?

Lucy preached this sermon 9.30am 28th Feb 2021

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Good morning, it is lovely to be with you today albeit still virtually at the moment. I am Reverend Lucy and two weeks ago I was licenced to the deanery of Lewes and Seaford, so you will be hearing more from me over the next weeks and months.

I am married to your vicar James and until we moved here as a family in August I was an SSM Associate Vicar at Scaynes Hill. Being an SSM priest means that I support myself financially by working a day job rather than being paid a stipend by the church. So four days a week I am a probate solicitor and in between I am a Church of England priest. My role here will be a supportive one and I will also be helping out other churches in the deanery as I am invited, so there will be some Sunday mornings when I am off elsewhere.

So let us turn to our gospel reading this morning from Mark. I want us to think about two things this morning. Who is Jesus? And what difference does that make to me?

Our reading today is a turning point in Mark’s gospel. If you think of Marks gospel as a scroll wound in from both ends this would be the middle passage. We have just had the miracles of Jesus feeding the four thousand and the healing of the blind man at the pool of Bethsaida. All exciting stuff that is drawing the crowds to listen to Jesus.

And just before our reading Jesus is walking along with his disciples and asks ‘who do you say that I am’. Peter, ever eager jumps in with ‘you are the Messiah’. He gets it right, so right, this is a good moment for Peter, a high point. Jesus is not yet ready for this to be generally known but that time is coming.

And so in our reading today Jesus is turning his face towards his death and resurrection. This is a new phase in the journey to Jerusalem and Jesus will become increasingly open about what will happen both to him and the expectations and difficulties that his disciples and followers will face too. He is starting to prepare the disciples:

 ‘He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.’ 

So we go from ‘you are the Messiah’ to the Son of Man must be killed in a few short sentences which must have been a mind blowing jump for the disciples.

So who is Jesus?

The Messiah in Hebrew, is the Christ in Greek and the Anointed one in Aramaic. These have in them a sense of consecration by God for a particular task. Increasingly the idea of a Messiah for the Jews of the first century was of the one who would set them free from their oppressors, the Romans. So this would have been a big step for Peter to say and the expectation would have been one of a military type victory over oppression.

Jesus accepts the declaration that he is the Messiah but he then uses the term ‘Son of man’ and steps away from the traditional Messiah giving it  fresh meaning with the echoes of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:

‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering’.

This announcement of his death must have been devastating for the disciples. That is not the Messiah they were expecting. It is hardly surprising that they don’t seem to hear or understand and you can imagine the vacuum of silence that Peter, who did so well earlier, jumps into and rebukes Jesus. Poor Peter, he then gets an earful from Jesus.

Who is Jesus?

He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one. But God’s liberation will come through the suffering, rejection, death and resurrection of the Messiah, not through military conquest

And those who follow Jesus will need to learn what that really means. So Jesus begins to teach them.

He teaches them that they must deny themselves and lose their life for Christ and take up their cross and follow him.

He teaches them that to follow Christ is to give ones whole life, and that this brings the inner freedom of loving and being loved by God.

That the way of the cross is actually the way to total freedom and fulfilment.

That in the topsy-turvy, upside down world of the Kingdom of God you have to lose your life to gain it.

So what difference does that make to me?

All the difference in the world. The purpose of Mark is to challenge us and help us to be clear about the kind of discipleship Jesus is calling us to and to enable us to respond positively. To show us the kind of Messiah that Jesus is.

The Jesus who calls us to follow him and who goes ahead of us.

The Jesus who stops to heal a bleeding woman rather than rush past.

The Jesus who washes feet.

The Jesus who feeds hungry men, women and children.

The Jesus who helps those that society would rather ignore.

The Jesus who has time for little children.

The Jesus who will give his life for me.

Who is Jesus?

He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one.

So what difference does that make to me?

All the difference in the world, but I have to lose my life to gain it, pick up my cross and follow in his footsteps.

Shall we finish with the words of our hymn for today as a prayer:

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, and I thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with thee one

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art

High King of heaven, my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O ruler of all
Amen.

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