The Christ

Exodus 1:8-2:10

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
A number of years ago, I was at a workshop and the leader handed out pens and paper and said we had a couple of minutes to write out words or phrases that described who we were.
Write out our identity on paper using words or phrases.
 And of course like the dutiful obedient person I am, I got to work and wrote down things like.
Man, husband, father, minister, Presbyterian, soccer coach, basketball coach.
I wrote down my full name Henry John Currie.
After the first minute I think I wrote down things like my age and my height and my approximate weight, my eye colour and hair colour.
 And then the workshop leader told us to stop and take the pen in our other hand, our non dominant hand, and continue to write down who we are…write down words and phrased that describes us and our identity.
 I had thought I had nearly exhausted who I was…
But I wrote down things like, sensitive, extroverted, creative, talkative, fun-loving, likes music, likes sports, likes games and puzzles and movies and mystery novels. Likes science fiction and tv cop shows.
Likes to talk about ideas and come up with ideas and discuss movies, stories books and theology and their themes and their metaphors and their ideas.
 I don’t know exactly whether I had just run out of things to say, or the fact that using my non-dominant hand made me use a different part of the brain, a brain that was not about labels and naming and logic, but the side of the brain that was about creating and imagining.
But it seems to me after thinking about it for a while that the real me is more the side of me that my left hand wrote about.
 If I were a bad guy and the police put out a most wanted poster, they would describe me as short man about 5 foot five inches, bald with a scruff of a beard, brown eyes, reddish brown beard and hair with a hint of gray. (maybe a lot of gray) About 190 lbs.
Likes to hang around McDonalds or Wendys or Harvey’s or A&W or Mucho Burrito or pretty much any fast food place. Drives a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
Hangs out in the pub after choir on Wednesday nights. Known associates include a couple of opera singers, some organists, a couple of American ex pats, and people with the first name Ron. Is addicted to diet pepsi and food.
For the sake of apprehension the police are not interested in the character of the person. They are not interested in compassion, kindness, musical ability, artistic expression, or whether someone is a good parent or loving spouse or faithful friend. They are interested in the outward things.
But isn’t the real person that is you less about what you look like and what your outward manifestation or role is…
…and more about the inner person. It is more about your qualities, your personality, your character, your beliefs, your ethics and morals, and how you actually act or live into that personality or character.
 When I visit families to arrange a funeral of a love one, I often will get them to tell me the story of that person. I hear names, and dates and titles and roles, but I am really looking for the stories that describe the character.
 And character and personality always comes out in action.
Someone is only kind if they do things that are kind.
Someone is loving because they do loving things, or act in a loving way.
And that is what I am looking for…. The real essence  of person is not whether they were a parent, but what kind of parent they were.
 “My dad” someone said, “was like a rock. He was always there for me and I could count on him for anything.”
 Another time a lady said: “My mom was the most generous person in the world, always making things and giving them away.”
 Another person talked about their deceased friend: “My friend loved animals, all animals, all people, all living things and was so tenderhearted towards all animals and people.”
 I have had this long introduction. In fact I remember one time another minister telling me about some of my sermon, that the introduction sometimes is most of the sermon.
 I like good introductions because they set the stage for the Scripture.
 And today’s gospel can be summed up pretty concisely.
Who do you say the Son of Man is?
Who is Jesus?
I remember teaching communicant’s classes to teenagers years ago and I sometimes I would say:
Now suppose a spaceship landed on earth and some
Aliens from another planet were here and they were friendly, and they found out you were a Christian and they asked you.
Who is this Jesus guy? Tell me about him.
What would you say?
 And inevitably they would say things like. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus was born in stable to Mary. Jesus was born of a virgin. Jesus performed miracles. Jesus died on a cross. Jesus was resurrected.
But notice none of that says much about the character of Jesus…who Jesus was in his essence… his personality, his character…his spirituality…what he thought and how he acted towards others….
 Who is this Jesus guy?
Jesus asks: Who do people say that the Son of Man is?
And then asks the disciples more pointedly “
“Who do you say that I am?”
And Peter says he is “the Christ.”
There are two concepts here. One is the “Son of Man.”
It is a term that Jesus used to refer to himself.
 It doesn’t simply mean a human, like a son of a human. It comes from a passage of scripture in Daniel which talks about various beast. This beast are empires that gobble up and destroy things in their path. They are called beasts because they are violent and kill and basically rape and plunder the land and the ordinary people to make their leaders rich.
One could argue the most empires act that way. The British Empire and the America Empire and the German Empire and the Greek Empire and the Roman Empire and the Mongolian Empire and the Saracen Empire and we could go on and on with empires that  control and dominate and use violence and take from the poor and the ordinary people to make the wealthy rich.
 And up to the throne of God comes a Son of Man, which represents a frail human with another vision of humanity. And this Son of Man is given a kingdom that will last forever.
Jesus says he is this new man with a new vision of humanity.
 The second word or concept is “Christ.” It is not the second name for Jesus. It really is Jesus, the Christ, instead of Jesus Christ, but in Greek the article is included with the word.
So the Greek “iesous christos” literally means Jesus, the Christ, but since it is only two words we tend to keep it to two words and customarily shorten it to Jesus Christ.
But really it is Jesus, the Christ.
“Christ” is the Greek word for the Jewish “Messiah,” which means “anointed one.”
Which is kind of like “the special one of God.”
 And the Jews all knew what the Messiah was supposed to be about. He was supposed to be God’s anointed one who would come in and destroy the Romans, overthrow the oppressors and usher in a new era of peace and justice.
 And Jesus says in effect  “yes.” I am the guy. I am the anointed one, the Chirst, the Messiah.
But guess what? He is not the Messiah they are expecting.
And so if we just had this passage of scripture to talk about Jesus as the Christ, we might be left in the dark as to what it really means to be a Messiah or a Christ.
But we have four gospels in particular that help us see what kind of Christ this is.
 I remember when I joined the Presbyterian Church. I became a member of Knox’s Galt Presbyterian Church and I stood before Session and one of the elders wanted to know if I believed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of God.
I said that I did. It was a confession of faith.
But to be honest though I believed Jesus was the Christ, I did not know really what the Christ was, and what the Christ was all about.
 This confession of Peter’s is made a Caesarea Philippi. It is the headquarters for the Romans in that area. It is name after Caesar. And in those days a common confession was that “Caesar was Lord.” That Caesar was a “son of God.”
And by having that confession at the capital of Roman Occupation, Jesus, the son of Man, was saying that his way of humanity, his way of power was Lord and not Caesar.
All the empires that rape and pillage and kill and take and gather money and material things are not Lord.
Jesus is Lord and his way, that way of the Son of Man and the way of the Christ, is that of love, and non-violence and tenderness and forgiveness and equality and justice.
Now he doesn’t say all that at Caesarea Philippi. We have to read the gospels to get all that. But he does go on to predict that he will suffer and be crucified and rise from death.
 But you see it has been so easy to focus on the title. Jesus is the Christ. Or Jesus is the son of God. Or Jesus is the Way. Or focus on the doctirine. Do yo believe that Jesus is the Christ? Do you believe that he is “son of God?”
 That sometimes we forget to look at what that really means and who Jesus is in his essence.
 What does it mean for me to call Jesus the Christ?
 It means that when you look at the way Jesus is, the way Jesus acts, the character of Jesus you see how God is, how God acts, and you see the character of God.
 And that primarily is that of love, of kindness, of understanding, of gentleness, of compassion.
 When you look at Jesus you see that he is someone who would go out into the wilderness of the world and risk his life for a tiny worthless lamb, because he loves so much…
And maybe we are that lamb.
 When you look at Jesus you that that he is someone who would welcome home a good-for nothing family member who has squandered the family fortune with riotous living.
And instead of judgment and condemnation there is an extravagant welcome and a forgiveness and a celebration.

And maybe we are that good-for-nothing family member.

 When you look at Jesus you see that he is someone who would go out of his way to help his greatest enemy and bind his wounds and tend to him and pay for his medical care…
 And maybe we are that enemy.
 When I say that Jesus is the Christ is means there is nowhere I could go, nothing I could do, that would keep Jesus from loving me and wanting the best for me.
 When I call Jesus the Christ is means that Jesus will love us so much that he will go to the cross and die; and from that cross yell out that even though we kill him he will still love us.
It means that even death will not kill his love for us, and that love is so strong it will survive death.
 When I call Jesus the Christ it means that Jesus is not just a person, but is the very power of love that can live in us and change us and transform us, that we too like Jesus can die and rise again.

It means: We can die to selfishness and ego and violence and be born again to be like Jesus.

 When I call Jesus the Christ it means that Jesus tells us that way to love, the truth that love is the way to be, and that the only life worth living is a life of love.
 When I call Jesus, the Christ, it means that all the emptiness inside us, the hurt and pain that people have caused, the scars and wounds of rejection or exclusion, the inner turmoil of sin and selfishness, can be healed by love and we can be new creatures or creations.
 When I call Jesus, the Christ, it means that Jesus lives in me and you and whenever we love, whenever we care, whenever we reach out to help someone in need then Christ is operating and active in this world.
 When I call Jesus the Christ it means we are part of building a kingdom here on earth of justice and love, of equality and sharing, of equity and peace and we are co-partners with God and with other humans.
When I call Jesus the Christ, the son of God, it means that all are loved and accepted by God and are children of God. Everyone last one of us has a true identity and that identity is to be children of God and therefore to live and act and be as Jesus, the one we call Christ.
 Yes, there are people who are lost and don’t know their true identity, do not know they are God’s children, God’s treasures and live like ordinary people when they really are extraordinary people.
 But we know what the real identity of person is…. And our mission is to help people find it.
 For when we say that Jesus is the Christ, it is not about doctrine or titles or names of beliefs, it is about us letting the loving character of Christ come alive in us, so that we live out our true identity and that is to be like Christ.

It is interesting the Old Testament Lesson that is paired with this Gospel Lesson.

 The story is about Moses in the bulrushes. The Pharaoh had ordered that all the Jewish baby boys were to be killed.
The Evil Empire, the Beast was getting rid of anything that might threaten them.
That’s what Empires do. And their go to method is violence.
But the midwives didn’t cooperate. Moses’ mother didn’t cooperate. Moses sister didn’t cooperate. Pharoah’s daughter didn’t cooperate.
And Moses is saved from the waters and born again, so to speak, and gains a new identity as Prince.
 Notice that all the action in this drama, of those who stood up for love, for salvation, who risked their lives, who stood up against the beast, who had a different vision of humanity, who were non-violent, were women.
 And although these women lived about 1400 years before Jesus, I believe their character was the character of Christ.
 They didn’t espouse doctrine or theology, they acted in such a way that opposed evil and championed love and justice.
 Some day there will be a minister coming to my house and that minister will be planning my funeral.
That minister is going to ask: What was he like?
 And maybe my wife and kids and grandchildren will say. He was a man, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a minister, a yoga teacher.
 Maybe they will say he liked stories, movies, mystery novels, dogs, hiking and nature and sports and games
Maybe they will say he believed that Jesus was the Christ.
I don’t know.
 But what I would like them to be able to say is that Harry was like Christ…
That Harry was loving. That Harry was forgiving. That Harry was non-violent. That Harry loved all people.
That Harry was there for them. That Harry would go our looking for them if they were lost.
That there was nothing that would keep Harry from loving them, not even death itself.
That would be the best way to say that I believe that Jesus is the Christ.