A: Do you ever get that “Heard it all before” feeling?
B: I’m not sure. What’s it about?
A: That gospel reading. It’s about Jesus being the Messiah, but I know that. We did it in Sunday School years ago. The Messiah was the King, and the Jews were living under Roman occupation waiting for the great King to come and set them free.
C: Somebody taught your Sunday School well if you remember it after all these years .
A: Careful now!
C: All right, but it’s important. Image is a big issue among young people these days. You’ve got to look right, and act right, and even speak in the right way.
B: You don’t mean that the disciples are Jesus image consultants, do you?
C: No, not quite. Jesus isn’t trying to boost his own confidence; in fact I don’t think he worried about his image, or needed to. But he wants to know what his friends think, how much they have understood about what he is doing, and who he is.
A: So, he’s the Messiah, and Peter knows. Is there any more to say?
B: Well, I don’t really understand why Jesus says that they shouldn’t tell anyone. You’d think that, if they’re right, he’d want to spread the news. So – perhaps Peter isn’t right after all? But Jesus doesn’t say he’s wrong. It’s confusing.
C: What if he was half right?
A: How can you be half right about something like that? Jesus is the Messiah; Jesus isn’t the Messiah – take your pick. But what else can he be?
C: Suppose he was the Messiah, but more than that.
B: Then – it might confuse people if they just expected him to be the Messiah.
A: It’s confusing me, and I thought I had it clear! Was Jesus the Messiah?
C: Yes, your Sunday School teacher was quite right. Jesus was the “anointed one”, the King the Jewish people had been waiting for – but
A: there had to be a BUT
C: but, he was also the Suffering Servant. He wasn’t going to raise an army and lead people into battle and glorious victory, he was going to suffer and die.
B: That explains why the reading went on to talk about dying and carrying crosses. It doesn’t seem to have been very popular then, and I can see why!
A: Well, nobody in their right mind is going to volunteer for a hard time, are they? It’s hard enough to get volunteers for anything these days, but I can’t see a queue forming to take a turn at suffering.
C: But isn’t that what Christian faith is about? Jesus invites his disciples, and that includes us, to suffer and possibly die for God’s Kingdom. If he was treated like that, we can’t expect much better.
A: Wait a minute, I didn’t volunteer for that! I’ve always thought of being a Christian as being on the winning side. God loves us, sets us free, and will steer us to the joy and triumph of heaven.
B: I understand you both, and you both seem to be right.
C: How can we both be right?
A: Either Christian faith is about winning, or its about volunteering for a hard time.
B: or both. (to A) You’re right when you say that nobody volunteers for a hard time – unless, of course, there’s a very good reason.
A: Like a war, for example?
B: Yes. Jesus can’t order his disciples to face suffering and death – and it’s not what he wants for them, but he knows that there will be opposition and trouble. So he helps them find the motivation to follow him, whatever it takes.
C: So Christian life is about suffering and carrying a cross.
B: Not really. It’s about following Jesus, and not being put off by whatever happens – good or bad. The good things can distract us and make us lazy; the bad ones tempt us to think it’s not worth going on.
A: when the victory at the end makes the hard times worthwhile.
C: I see what you mean. I suppose different people will concentrate on different parts of what Jesus did, or perhaps will come to understand things at different times in their lives. I was thinking of what he said about suffering and his disciples needing to carry crosses, or be ready to die for him.
A: and I was more encouraged by Jesus as King, bringing freedom.
B: Jesus sums it up for me in that last verse when he talks about not being ashamed of him. We could try to keep quiet about being his friends, a bit embarrassed about our faith, and trying to keep it out of sight.
C: that sounds rather Anglican, what’s the alternative?
B: Being proud of Jesus. Encouraged by someone who would give his life for us, who so consistently did good when other people treated him wrongly and badly. Being inspired by a life that never lost its way – and being honoured by the invitation to join him.
A: When you put it like that, I could volunteer!
(856 words – about 9 minutes) (Click here to return to the Index of Sketches)