To win today’s competition, you need to answer this question in 25 words or less: Who is this Jesus?
Even better, draw me a picture. It shouldn’t be that hard. As Christians we all claim to know Jesus personally, so we should know what he looks like, shouldn’t we?
This is one place where the disciples had one up on us. They knew what he looked like. They walked down roads with him, they slept in the same place as him, they were continually having to search for him when he went off somewhere to pray by himself.
They knew what he looked like. I imagine what most of us think of are those paintings that have Jesus with light sandy brown hair and a beard, and blue eyes.
Very English or northern European, but probably not very accurate. But you know, it doesn’t matter what he looked like, it matters who he was. And, who he is.
This is where we read the stories and think, “How stupid were those disciples, they just didn’t get it!” They just could not work out who Jesus was.
Mind you, it is easy for us, we have the benefit of two thousand years behind us to work it out.
As we look at the gospel lesson for today, it was probably no more than a day or two since Jesus had called the disciples away from their nets to follow him.
They didn’t know what they were in for, or really, who this man was. All they knew is that they were following him.
Then all of a sudden he was preaching in the synagogue, casting out demons and healing the sick. What were they to make of this?
Now who would they say that he was, a preacher, a prophet, an exorcist, a healer? Remember that these types of people all existed. There were those that healed by magic, medicine or miracle.
There were plenty of travelling teachers and Holy men.
So, was he a Holy man, a preacher man, a medicine man?
At that stage they really didn’t know Jesus at all. No-one really did. No, wait, that’s not quite true.
There were those who knew who Jesus was right from the start.
The Demons whom Jesus was casting out.
The demons could have cleared things up for everyone by telling them who Jesus was, but that is exactly the thing that Jesus didn’t want.
In the text before this one, when Jesus drove out an unclean spirit, it shouted that it knew who he was, the Holy one of God.
So this time he commanded them to be quiet. He was not ready for people to know the truth.
It took the disciples a long time to work it out for themselves, didn’t it? It was only near the end of Jesus’ ministry that Peter was able to say, “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What a shocking realisation. No wonder the people were not ready for it yet. This man is God.
When you see this man, you see God.
When you close your eyes and picture Jesus, what kind of God do you see?
Is God the shepherd, carrying a lamb over his shoulders?
Is God the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” that lets the children come to him?
Is God the angry Jesus raging through the temple courts with a whip?
Is God the farmer scattering seed?
It is so tempting to see Jesus in all the ways that make us think of the power of God. Jesus performing miracles, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus calming the storm. This is an exciting God! This is a God who gets things done, this is a God who would be easy to follow, this is a God of glory!
This is what we call a theology of glory, and it forgets one thing.
That thing in the middle of the altar. That one thing doesn’t fit in with that way of seeing God.
Martin Luther said that the only place we can truly see God is in the person of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.
There in what looks like weakness is the power of God. Because there the love of God for us is shown completely.
There we realise how much God had to go through to love us.
This is the theology of the cross. This is not a God that is so easy to follow. Not much glory involved there, is there?
If this is the sort of things that our God gets done then why do we want to follow this God?
There are so many ancient civilizations that made their gods up to be like themselves.
The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians had noble gods, warlike gods heroic gods, mischievous gods, handsome well-built gods like the Greek Adonis, and stunning goddesses of beauty.
They formed their gods in their own image, or in the image that they would like themselves to be.
Not so with us, is it? Who wants to be like a bloody, weak, torn, disgraced nobody who is being executed? That’s what it looks like doesn’t it?
Our God shows his power in weakness. He makes his grand entrance into a feed trough in a cowshed, he is crowned with the twisted branch of a thornbush, and killed.
If Jesus had let those demons speak, in our text today, if he had let them tell the crowds who he was, they too, with their ideas of what the Messiah should be, the all-powerful conqueror, would have tried to make Jesus that kind of military ruler that would wipe out the Romans.
The world had to have time to get to know him, to know who he really was.
The disciples had to have time to get to know him, so that when he was gone, they could do what Jesus said he had come to do, go out to the towns and preach, go out to the world and proclaim.
The kingdom of God is here. Not a kingdom where everything is done by force and displays of power, but a kingdom where you get to know your king bit by bit, more every day.
This is a kingdom where the naturalization ceremony means being personally adopted by the king, in baptism.
This is a Kingdom where you personally sit down to a meal with the king, when you come to Holy Communion.
There are still those who do not know the King. There are those who cannot make the same claim with the apostle Peter, “you are the Christ, the son of the living God!”
There are those who still need us to continue on the mission that Jesus himself came for, to go out to the surrounding places, to heal, and to proclaim.
This is a king who doesn’t expect you to die in battle for him. He is one who has proven he is willing to die for you. Here is not an anonymous membership, a number in an army too vast to care about you.
Here is the love you have always been looking for, and the life you have never known you could have.
It’s about Jesus, isn’t it?
He still heals, he still changes lives.
Let’s keep telling the world what we know.