My dear Parishioners,
A grandchild of a Presbyterian grandmother came back from Sunday school and said to her grandma that the teacher told them that Jesus was Jewish. Grandma looked at her grandchild and, with a smile on her face, said, "Well, that may be, but I assure you, God is still a Presbyterian”.
On this Twenty-First Sunday of Year A, the gospel reading (Matthew 19:16-22) tells the story about Christ inquiring from His apostles what people in town were saying about who He is. No doubt, the people then, young and old alike, were buzzing with conversations about Jesus, because of His extraordinary life, teachings, and works. At dinner tables, or street corners, or at cafes, the conversation was on: “Have you heard what Jesus of Nazareth did last week—how he raised somebody from the dead, or how he healed some guy who was born blind and another guy who was deaf and dumb, or how he is casting out demons and healing lepers and people with paralysis, or how he fed 5000 men, not including children and women, with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and after they had more than enough to eat, they had so much left over? The buzz could be, “Did you hear what this guy said in the synagogue last Sabbath—The he and God are one, and that he existed before Abraham, and that he is the way to God, and that he was going to judge all men and people will receive their eternal destiny from His lips, and that unless you eat his body and drink his blood you will not have eternal life? People were amazed with how he taught with authority that had never been seen before and wondered how even the wind and waves obey him.
Yes, they knew his mother, Mary and his father, Joseph the carpenter. But there was something different about this man—a man perfect in his nature, kind, humble, loving, meek, lowly of heart, gentle, patient, prone to tears of sympathy, caring, and forgiving. He is not a bombast intimidating people with pompous claims, nor is He a fat fake whose devotees have laddered with a hundred white stallions and golden chariots, living in a marble palace and living on steak and caviar served by a hundred women ready to do anything for him. No, this is the man to whom local women brought their babies to be blessed and prayed over; the man who had nowhere to lay his head, the man who was born in a manger, the man who laid down his life on the cross for his friends. All over the world today, millions of people are singing to one another about him. Children pray to him! Scientists, millionaires, educators, businessmen and women, and peasants worship him. Events in the world are measured according to whether they happened before his birth or after his birth.
So, when Christ asked His apostles, “Who do people say that I am”, and then said to them, “Who do you say that I am”, he was not asking for some information but for a confession, a conviction, and a personal assessment that will lead to commitment and relationship with Him. It is a question of belief; a question about faith and eternal life. Somehow, my friends, we must all come to a conclusion about Jesus of Nazareth. As Scripture says, “If you believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord and confess with your mouth that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved...[and] no one who believes in him will ever be put to shame…[for] everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-13).