Just a few short weeks ago I was listening to Jonathan preaching his Sunday morning sermon. If my memory serves me right he preached about a king whose son was about to be married and a wonderful feast had been prepared. The king had sent out his invitations but those who he invited declined to attend giving various excuses. Some even mistreated and killed the messengers that the king had sent out. The king was angry about this and so he sent his servants out into the streets to invite anyone who they came across to his son’s wedding feast.
Soon the wedding hall was full of people who were enjoying the very best that the king had to offer. There was one man, however, who did not come dressed for the occasion – he was not wearing a wedding robe and, once again, the king was not pleased. The king had his servants bind the man hand and foot and had him thrown into the outer darkness.
Jonathan remarked upon the bad manners of this man. It was very bad etiquette to attend a wedding feast improperly dressed. He quite plainly did not make the effort.
Jonathan compared this lack of effort and good manners to the meticulous planning of a certain Mrs Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) when she was entertaining people at one of her Candlelit Suppers along with the bone china tea set with the hand painted periwinkles. It would have been the height of good taste but of course, as Jonathan said, she was often foiled by her more common relatives who always seemed to come out best.
This particular part of Jonathan’s sermon reminded me of something that happened to me one day.
Many years ago I used to work for Wrexham Council and on this one occasion I was working on Llwyn Isaf Car Park at the side of the library. It was quite a nice day although I can’t remember what time of the year it was. As I was about my work I became aware of two ladies standing around twenty feet away from me. They were having a mild disagreement and I could hear every word they were saying. One said to the other one “It’s him you know” “it isn’t” said her friend. “I tell you it’s him” “no it’s not” her friend replied. “It is him” said the first lady again. This little argument went on for several moments with each of these ladies insisting that they were right. It was quite amusing and I was wondering just what it was they were arguing about. Finally one of the ladies said “right, okay, let’s go and ask him” and at that they started to walk towards me. By now I was quite intrigued. When they reached me the first lady said “it is you isn’t it?” I was really wondering now so I said to her “yes, it’s me” “See”, she said to her friend, “I told you it was him”. Again her friend disagreed and so she asked me again “just tell her it is you isn’t it”? “yes”, I said again, “it’s definitely me”. I am now beginning to wonder just who this lady thinks I am, when she says “please can I have your autograph and will you sign it To Mary love and best wishes Geoffrey?” Geoffrey? I ask her “just who do you think I am?” “well it’s you isn’t it?” she said, “Geoffrey Hughes, Eddie Yates, Onslow.” I let her down gently. “what would Geoffrey Hughes be doing on a car park in Wrexham”? I asked her. “Well, I thought you were filming something” she said. She went away quite deflated that she hadn’t met one of her favourite television personalities. I could hear her friend telling her as they walked off “see, I told you it wasn’t him” I felt quite sorry for her. So much for my five minutes of fame.
As comical as the incident was it was clearly a case of mistaken identity. She did not know me at all and totally believed that I was somebody else and it has made me think if the people of his time really knew who Jesus was.
Jesus was not most people’s idea of a messiah. The messiah would be a warrior mounted upon a horse leading his army against the hated Romans. Jesus, a man of peace, chose to ride upon a humble donkey and says that we must love our enemies. No, he wasn’t quite what was expected, in fact even some of his own disciples wanted him to be more forceful where the Romans were concerned. They didn’t doubt him, they had seen the miracles he had performed at first hand. They were eye witnesses to all these wonderful signs,- but did they really know him?
At this point in his ministry Jesus would have been well known to many people. The priests and the Pharisees clearly do not like what they see – to them Jesus is a threat to their way of life. The ordinary people liked him – but they did not worship him. To them he was a teacher and a healer but probably nothing more. Jesus was surrounded by people who just did not understand him or why he came. They did not know who he was. A clear case of mistaken identity.
In our Gospel reading today Jesus asks the £75.000 question, “who do men say that I am?” He wants to know what the ordinary man and woman in the street are saying about him. The answer he gets is “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. These were all important people in Israel’s history, they all stood up to the corrupt authorities of their day. I wonder if we went out into the streets today and asked people “who do you say Jesus Christ is?” What sort of answers would we get? A good man? An early revolutionary? A teacher – a prophet- a charlatan? The Son of God?
Jesus then asks the Million pound question “but who do you say that I am?” This is the question we all have to answer and no you can’t ask the audience and you can’t phone a friend. We have to be sure of our answer – we don’t want any cases of mistaken identity here. We have to be sure. We have to be like Peter and confess that Jesus is the Christ, he is the messiah, he is the Son of God. Until we believe that we can’t call ourselves Christians. That is the core belief of the church.
We believe that a man once walked this earth who was like no other man.
He said things no other man has ever said. He did things that no other man has ever done. For over 2000 years people have believed that this man is indeed the Son of God. That man is Jesus of Nazareth. Today, Jesus is asking us that same question, “who do you say that I am?”
How do we stand on that answer?
Men say………..We say…………They say……….. What do you say? How do you stand?
I’d like to conclude with a short amusing story that maybe highlights how easy it is to make mistakes and what the consequences might be.
A married couple lived in London. During a rather cold winter they decided that they would like to jet off somewhere warm for a few weeks. They decided on Gran Canaria. As they both had busy working lives they were unable to fly down together and so they decided that the husband would fly off first and his wife would be able to follow him the next day.
The day arrived and the husband departed as arranged. When he arrived at the hotel he found that there was a computer in their room and so he decided to send his wife an email. He unfortunately left out one letter of his wife’s email address and so the email mistakenly went to the wrong person. Meanwhile, in Manchester, a woman was returning home from her husband’s funeral. Wondering if she had received any messages of sympathy, she decided to check her emails. She took one look at the screen, screamed, and fainted. The woman’s son came running to see what had frightened his mother and this is what he read. “To my loving wife, I know that you are not expecting to hear from me but they have computers here now and we are encouraged to send messages to our loved ones back home. All is prepared for your arrival tomorrow. I hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was. P.S. It sure is warm down here.