I want to share with you a story about a woman who was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left her work and stopped by the drug store to get some medication for her daughter.
When she returned to her car, she found that she had locked her keys inside. She was in a hurry to get home to her sick daughter. She didn’t know what to do, so she called home and told the babysitter what had happened, and that she did not know what to do.
The babysitter told the woman that her daughter was getting worse. Then she said, “You might find a coat hanger and use that to open the door.”
As luck would have it, the woman looked around and found a rusty old coat hanger, probably left there by someone else who had used it when they had locked their keys in their car. She looked at the hanger, and said, “I don’t know how to use this.”
It was then that she bowed her head, and began to pray. She asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes, an old rusty car pulled, with a disheveled, unkempt man who was wearing an old biker skull rag on his head. The woman thought, “Dear God – this is who you sent to help me?” But she was desperate.
The man got out of his car, and asked if he could help. She said, “Yes. My daughter is very sick. I stopped by to get her some medicine, and I locked my keys in the car. I have to get home to her. Please. Can you use this hanger to get into my car? The man said, “Sure.”
In less than a minute, the man had the car door opened. The woman hugged the man, and through her tears, she said, “Thank you so much. You are a very nice man.”
“No lady,” the man said. “I’m not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft, and have been out for only about an hour.”
The woman hugged the man again, and with sobbing tears cried out loud, “Thank you God.” She cried out loud, “Thank you God – for sending me – a professional!”
I want to talk to you today about another professional – an expert – that God sends our way. His name is Jesus. And in our reading today from the book of Matthew, we have this wonderful encounter between Jesus and his disciples. Most importantly – the disciple by the name of Simon Peter.
Jesus takes his disciples to a place called Caesarea Philippi. While there, he begins to ask them a few questions. First he asks, “Who do people say that I am?” Now, the disciples’ answers are all over the map, because what people are saying about Jesus is all over the map. “Some say you are John the baptizer come back from the dead. Others say that you are Elijah, or maybe even Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”
Good answers! You see, the disciples have been listening. Not only to Jesus – but they’re aware of the buzz that’s going around in the towns and villages that they’ve been traveling through. So far, so good after the first question. But the second question. Ah, the second question is just like the first, but this one is a little bit tougher.
That’s when Jesus asks, “Yes – but who do you say that I am?”
I can only imagine that there must have been this moment of eerie silence. Brief – but still noticeable. You know – one of those questions that just kind of hangs in the air. But you know – you know – that someone’s going to answer – and that person is going to be….? Peter. That’s right. Peter. When in doubt, answer Peter and chances are good that you’ll be right.
It’s good old Peter. He answers, “You are the Christ – the Messiah – the Son of the living God!”
And Jesus turns to Peter – and if Jesus had been at all familiar with the musical My Fair Lady, he might just have used the line that Professor Henry Higgins says to Eliza Doolittle, “By George – I think he’s got it!”
So – answer number one. Correct. Answer number 2. Also correct. Peter and the disciples are batting a thousand. How do we know? Well, Jesus does NOT use Professor Henry Higgins’ words, but this is what he says, “Blessed are you, Simon son of John! Flesh and blood and have 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.”
By the way, that question – that second question that Jesus asked – was not just for those twelve disciples to answer. That question is directed at all disciples and every wanna-be disciple – in every time and in every place – to answer.
So – who do YOU say that Jesus is? And does it matter? Well, yeah!
Let’s go back to that story I started out with – the one about the woman who locked her keys in her car. She cried out to God for help in her time of need. It’s a natural thing to do, and I would guess that we’ve all done that. But to see God – to see Jesus Christ – as someone we turn to ONLY in times of need – is so limiting. I have a concern that some people – not everyone – but there are some – who limit their understanding of who Jesus is to someone they turn to to get them out of a jam. Like some sort of super hero who comes to their rescue.
If that’s who you say Jesus is – well, let me tell you. Jesus is so much more than that.
When I look into this book – especially when I read what it says about Jesus in those four books that we call the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – let me tell you,
• I really enjoy the teachings that Jesus taught. But Jesus is more than just a great teacher.
• I really appreciate the philosophy Jesus lays down about how we are to relate to God – and how we are to relate to each other. But Jesus is more than just a philosopher about life and living.
• I love the parables of Jesus. But Jesus is more than just a great story teller.
• I love to read about the miracles that Jesus performed. But Jesus is more than just a miracle worker.
• I could talk about his healing ministry. But Jesus is more than just a great physician.
Yes, Jesus is all of these things. In fact, I would say that Jesus is an expert in all of these things. But most of all – Jesus is an expert who deals with my greatest problem – my greatest shortfall of all.
Jesus is God’s expert when it comes to dealing with me and MY sin! He proved it when he died on the cross. For you! For me! Jesus is God’s expert in forgiving sins. He is an expert in giving us abundant life in the here and now – and eternal life with God in the life to come.
He is the Savior – the One who saves. He is the Lord – the leader of life. Of your life. Of mine.
When Peter declared that Jesus is the Messiah – the Son of the Living God – he was declaring that Jesus is THE expert that God promised to send. The expert that God would send to set people free from the power of sin and guilt and shame.
How can one person be an expert in all these things? I’ll tell you how. Because Jesus is also God.
So – who do you say that Jesus is? Today. Right here. Right now. Who do you say that Jesus is?
• Teacher? Philosopher? Miracle Worker? Healer? A great man from the past? Savior? Lord? The list of options can and does go on.
There are some who say that Jesus was just a historical figure from the past. A great man to be sure. But just a man. There are some who make the claim that he was just a legend – that he never existed – but they are few – and most historians – even non-believing historians – will say that the man Jesus was for real. But still, just an interesting character who lived some 2000 years ago.
You know that I love to say that Jesus was not a legend – he is not a liar – he is not a lunatic – but he is exactly who he says he is. He is Lord! The One who has conquered death! He is alive – and he is with us today.
Now – do you remember the movie Titanic? You remember Rose – a young woman who is trapped in a social structure she despises. Engaged to an abusive, power-driven man? She stands on the ledge of that great ocean liner about to jump overboard – when young Jack – a poor artist – talks her back from the edge. She slips and falls. He grabs her hand, and promises, “I won’t let go.”
Throughout the movie that theme reasserts itself. “I won’t let go,” he repeats as Rose’s mother and friends try to keep them apart. As the ship is going down – Oh! I hope I didn’t ruin the movie for anybody – but as the ship is going down, he holds her close, and says, “I won’t let go.” In the frigid water, Rose survives by clinging to floating debris. And Jack, bobbin in the water at her side, dies – still holding her hand.
Someone named Penelope Stokes says in her book, Simple Words of Wisdom, “He was true to his promise. Even in death, he didn’t let go.”
May I suggest that that too is a picture of Jesus? Who he is – and what he does. No matter where we are in life or death – no matter what happens to us – he is someone who never lets go.
So – who do you say that Jesus is? I cannot answer that question for you. Each one of us must answer that question for him or herself. But I can tell you this. He is both Savior and Lord. He is God’s expert at forgiving sins. He is God’s expert at giving us the abundant life now, and eternal life in the life to come. He is the expert we need. Every day of our lives.
So – who do you say that Jesus is? Wouldn’t it be great if today we could answer like Peter? “You are the Christ – the Messiah – the Son of the living God!”
And then to hear Jesus say, “By George – I think you’ve got it!”