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Date: February 26, 2017 (Last after Epiphany) 1. Texts: Exodus 24:12-18; Ps. 2; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9. 2. Subject: Christology. 3. Topic: the impact of Christology on our lives. 4. Aim: embolden. 5. Proposition: “The fact of Jesus changes how we live, move and have our being.”

 

GOD’S WITNESS COUNTS

 

We all remember this passage. 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.1 We all cheer Peter for being so open to God’s Spirit. But that’s not really the issue, is it. The point of that story is not Peter’s obedience. Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be 1 Matthew 16:13-17. Page 2 of 6 -Christology in spiritual practiceafraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.2 The point is clearly not about Peter’s obedience, because, in fact, he got it wrong this time. Actually, I’m beginning to think it’s never about anyone’s obedience: it is about the testimony and word of God. In both these passages, the central fact is not what Peter does: it is what God is doing. In both instances God is bearing witness to the identity of Jesus. God is revealing his will and testifying to the reality of Jesus. The core of the gospel is not who we think Jesus is: it is all about who God says Jesus is. Jesus is the beloved Son of God, but not in the sense that we usually view a “son”. In our culture, there’s always a sense that our children will always be somehow inferior to their parents. We have a paternalistic view of our children. Not so in the New Testament. The Parable of the Wicked Tenants makes it very clear that the son is considered equal to the father.3 The king’s son is considered an ambassador of his father’s kingdom. The blessing and acknowledgment of the father raises the status of the son—just remember that nasty little trick of Rebekah and Jacob! And then, there is the reality that God proclaimed Jesus not just as any son, but the Son of God. This proclamation identifies Jesus with God. The phrase “Son of God” had a history inside Roman culture through which the emperors identified themselves with a particular deity. The identification of Jesus as God’s Son—God’s only begotten Son—not even adopted Son—by God is God’s clear testimony and witness to the reality of Jesus. God himself equates Jesus as his divine ambassador and equal inside time and space. This truth has to change how we live, act and think. After all, that’s what faith is about. Faith is a life-changing relationship with God as he is revealed in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s revelation in Jesus automatically gives 2 Matthew 17:1-8. 3 Matthew 21:38. Page 3 of 6 -Christology in spiritual practiceJesus’ life an authority that no other life can have. God’s testimony to Jesus makes him an authoritative model for the divine life on earth. Because of God’s testimony Jesus can never be just a “nice man” or a “good teacher” or a “religious leader” for the Christian. The Christian disciple must always give the life, words and actions of Jesus the power to change how the disciple lives, speaks and makes decisions. Now, that may sound obvious to everyone, but being a fundamental reality it goes deeper than most realize. How many of us think today that Sunday School is all about teaching our children the stories of Jesus? You know the hymn, “Tell me the stories of Jesus I long to hear.” And thinking in those terms actually makes Jesus just a nice Sunday School teacher who tells stories about how good little children should behave. Sunday School is frequently understood in terms of good behaviour and maybe the kids will learn how to be quiet in church. That’s not good enough, is it. Or think about everyone who wants to prove that the Christian Church is worth some attention because of the social services it provides. Many congregations say next to nothing about Jesus the Christ and spend huge amounts of time, money and effort on feeding the poor or housing the homeless. Knowing and supporting the communities in which we live is essential, but only insofar as that is our expression of the life of Christ. Being good, kind and nice is not the core of Christianity—living out the life of Jesus in the here and now is. By faith we enter into a life-changing relationship with God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Through faith we accept the divine proclamation of God, who declared Jesus to be his only begotten son. We acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, who embodied the life of God on earth. Because of God’s declaration we treat Jesus differently and give his life authority over how we live ours. Like Paul, we no longer regard Jesus from a human vantage point.4 We allow God’s declaration to change our lives. We don’t have time today to explore Jesus’ entire life as a model for our own. That takes a lifetime. 4 2 Corinthians 5:16. Page 4 of 6 -Christology in spiritual practiceSo, what would you like to ask, with respect to living out the life of Christ in the here and now? What issue or practice do you want to explore in light of Christ’s life? Be prepared to respond extemporaneously. Predicting congregational needs is difficult, but I suspect people may want to talk about  How do we get our own families to respond to the declaration of God that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God?  How do we talk to our neighbours and friends about Jesus? Don’t try to come to definitive conclusions. Rather, the goal would be to share one another’s concerns and see if the congregation itself can begin to work towards solutions. But I think we can look at modelling Jesus’ life in our lives. That is, if Jesus is God’s model for divine living in human existence, how can our lives model his life? Obviously, we don’t go around in sandals and loosely fitting homespun garments as Jesus did. We have to live his life but in our context and right now that means boots, coats and mitts. We also don’t try to learn Aramaic or live as a first century Jew. We live his life in our context. We live his life, which looks like this: I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.5 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.6 5 John 10:10. 6 Galatians 5:22-25. CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING TWO OPTIONS BASED ON YOUR OWN COMFORT, CONFIDENCE AND ABILITY. OPTION TWO Page 5 of 6 -Christology in spiritual practiceAnd that Spirit-led life is marked by And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.7 Or maybe like this 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,8 or this so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.9 Our tasks as followers of Jesus is to embody his life in our words, actions and thoughts. Because Jesus is the definitive self-expression of God, we disciples live as he would do in our time and place. And we can even say what he wants us to achieve with this lifestyle: And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey 7 1 Corinthians 12:28. 8 Romans 12:1-2. 9 Romans 12:4-10. Page 6 of 6 -Christology in spiritual practiceeverything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’10 Remember, Jesus is the self-expression of God. That’s why he’s been given all authority, an authority we as Christians accept. Based on that authority, Jesus says our lives should 1. present the love of God in such ways that people respond positively to it; 2. encourage others to accept baptism; and 3. be a source book for Christian living. Our lives make disciples, lead to the baptisms of others and provide accurate knowledge of Christian living. Which is exactly what Jesus did. So our lives mimic his. As he models the life of God, we model the life of Jesus. This is what must happen in the lives of Christian disciples once we take God’s proclamation of Jesus seriously. This truth then begs the question, are we taking God at his word? AMEN.