In our series looking at questions God asks us, we looked tonight at Matt 16:13-20, where Jesus asked His disciples two questions about His identity. Who Jesus is remains crucially important; if He is both the Son of God as well as the Son of Man, then it matters enormously how we answer these questions.
Initially, Jesus asked for the general opinion about His identity and was told that ‘some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ (Matt 16:14) There was no real general consensus about His identity, though there was a vague feeling He was important – but not enough to affect people personally. This is probably the same response people give today. A survey commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance and Church of England and carried out in 2015 by Barna Group and ComRes subtitled ‘What people in England think of Jesus, Christians and evangelism’ interviewed over 4,500 people in the U.K. to find out the modern-day answer to this question Jesus asked. 40% of adults and 46% of young people aged 11-18 said they were not sure or did not believe that Jesus was a real person who lived on earth while 22% thought he was a fictional character. Yet approximately one in five adults (21%) and young people (22%) said they believed Jesus was God in human form and three in 10 said that they believed He was a prophet. It seems that answers really haven’t changed very much down the years.
Jesus was not just interested in general opinion, however, wanting to know what the disciples thought, and Peter makes one of the most famous confessions in Scripture: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ (Matt 16:6) Peter was beginning to realise that Jesus was more than just a rabbi or teacher; by divine inspiration, he sees that Jesus is not just an important man, but the One chosen by God to be the deliverer of the world.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus is totally God (John 1:1-3, Heb 1:3, Col 1:15, 18), but also acknowledges that we needed a human being to pay the price for our sin (see 2 Cor 15:21). Jesus took on human flesh (John 1:14, Heb 2:14) and became our substitute and sacrifice for sin. His identity has always been disputed and will continue to be the ‘sticking point’ for many people. We need to be convinced in our own minds of who Jesus is and the overflow from this will be a desire to share Jesus with others. The question of who Jesus is lies at the heart of our faith and must be at the heart of our evangelism also. It’s all about Jesus.
Dave spoke this morning about the way of love and how this looks so different to the world’s way of retaliation and revenge. Martin Luther King once had his house burned down. His followers were understandably angry and wanted to do a similar thing to other people’s houses, but were persuaded by him of the better way of love. Jesus (see Luke 6:27-38) reminded His followers that the natural rule (an eye for an eye etc.) leaves a blind and toothless nation. The way of revenge and retaliation simply leads to more hostility. The way of Jesus is the way of love and doing good – even to our enemies.
We may wonder how we can love in this way, when everything inside us is perhaps crying out to hate. We have to make the choice to love; it is a conscious decision we must make that no matter what, we will choose to love. This is what makes a marriage work; it’s what makes every relationship work. We can only really do this as we dwell in God’s love, reflecting His nature as we bless and give the way God blesses and gives. This will inevitably affect us and all around us, and is the only way others will see the love of God for themselves.
In the main hall, we had many local businesses and residents displaying their artwork, selling crafts and showing us their skills! We also got to watch juggling and circus skills, listen to singers from the Angel Voices Performing Arts Academy and watch dancers from the Clayton School of Dance.
There was something very special about the 2021 Dearne Community Arts’ Festival. Perhaps because last year’s festival had to be online only, we have learned to appreciate even more the value of gathering together and sharing ideas, seeing the talent that is around us and watching performances live.
Vincent the Sun Bear and Turner Lights Up were there to greet us, along with all the yarn bombing and bunting!
Inside, we were blown away by the work of pupils at the school, including their poetry river, thumbprint, science display and sculptures.
The High Street had a range of exhibitions and workshops, giving us the opportunity to learn about wood-turning, have a go at hot wax painting, henna designs and painting on fabric.
There was also the chance to be involved in the Elmer The Elephant project (decorating elephant sculptures that will form part of the elephant trail in October) and the Poppy Project (making poppies from plastic bottles for Remembrance Day).
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was for the eyes of their hearts to be enlightened (Eph 1:18). We need to see with spiritual eyes in order to grasp spiritual truth – ‘so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people and his incomparably great power for us who believe.’ (Eph 1:18-19)
Spiritual truth can’t be seen naturally. We need eyes of faith. Faith shows us that Christ is at the centre of everything, that His death and resurrection are game-changers that have transformed history. In the Message version, we are reminded of God’s sovereignty, that God is ‘in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments‘, that ‘he is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.’ We are reminded of the central role in God’s plans: ‘the church, you see, is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church.’ When we see these things, we begin to grasp our new identity in Christ and a new purpose in serving Him.
How we need our spiritual eyes to be opened!
The Dearne Community Arts’ Festival, held annually in Goldthorpe to champion creativity and celebrate community (and happening today, 25 September, between 11 a.m and 4 p.m.), is effectively the tip of an iceberg in the Dearne Valley area.