O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Lord of creation,
whose glory is around and within us:
open our eyes to your wonders,
that we may serve you with reverence
and know your peace at our lives’ end,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Give judgement for me, O God,
and defend my cause against an ungodly people;
deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my refuge;
why have you cast me from you,
and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?
O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,
That I may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness;
and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul,
and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God;
for I will yet give him thanks,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’
He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone,2saying, ‘The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’
In yesterday’s reading we heard of Herod’s perplexity and his desire to see Jesus for himself. We have no evidence that Herod’s curiosity was ever satisfied but, today, we do hear of those who were less confused about Jesus. Today, Jesus asks his disciples a direct question: … who do you say that I am? Then, in response to this direct question, Peter responds: The Messiah of God.
So often this passage is seen as a moment when the great secret is revealed. The moment when the magician produces the rabbit from the hat or the great marketing campaign tells us the next ‘must have’ product. But, that is not really what is going on here. Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah but, that word ‘Messiah’, is tricky. For orthodox Jews of the time, the long-awaited Messiah would be a King. Not a Divine King, but rather a King who would lead them into the great battle that would see the end of the Roman occupation. The promised Messiah would be the final descendant in the line of David, the King of old who was God’s chosen one. Such a King would not be one who: must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed. That is to say nothing of the nonsense about being raised from the dead on the third day.
The disciples knew Jesus to be the Messiah. He was of the correct lineage and he was born in the right town. His words and actions proved that he could fulfil the Messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures. But … Jesus would never be the Messiah they were expecting. The reality of Jesus would far exceed such mundane ambitions. We live in a post-resurrection world. We know Jesus as both fully-human and fully-divine. We know what sort of Messiah he is. And yet, so many of us hesitate when we are asked: Who do you say Jesus is?
Let us pray that we might never be ashamed of our faith in Jesus. Let us pray that we might never hesitate in proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. Let us pray that we might stand strong in our faith so that, in our time, we may stand before him and join Peter in saying: You are the Messiah of God.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to the Father, who has called us to follow Christ in all things.
Empower your Church to follow Christ in all things, courageous to face the hard demands of the Gospel. Keep your people from idle gossip and evil speaking, that the purity of their witness shall not be corrupted.
Fill with the love of truth those who influence the minds of others. Give to journalists and broadcasters the desire to make known the good as well as the bad, and to avoid anything that can mislead the innocent.
We pray for all who are suffering from slander and false accusations; for those unjustly accused through malice or error. Give courage to those who are called to witness to their faith in peril and persecution.
Guard our speaking as we meet with others. Shield us in our families and in all our relationships from hasty words and disregard of truth.
We pray that the souls of the departed who loved this world too much may be pardoned in the Kingdom where true joys are to be found. May no evil report harm the memory of those who are at rest.
As those who trust in Christ, the true Messiah, we pray in his name.
Prayer for the week
you have taught us to pray to you as ‘Our Father’:
help us to see the world through your eyes,
and to love our neighbours with your love.
Show us how we can share with them
the knowledge and joy of our faith,
that they may be brought closer to you,
and enjoy the perfect freedom of your kingdom.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our Lord and our God.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.