Christ asked, ‘Who do men say that I the Son of Man am?’ (Matt. 16:15) There were numerous opinions doing the rounds about Jesus’ origin. The answers ranged from a prophet to a genuine descendant of King David. When Simon was challenged his answer was inspired, ‘You are the Anointed One, the Son of the living God.’ He discovered Jesus to be (as we do) the rightful heir to the throne of Israel, the King of the eternal heaven and earth restored under God; the Messiah: uniquely endorsed by every true prophet, by signs, wonders and His ultimate resurrection through the Holy Spirit.
In spite of teachings that contemporaries found unpalatable and incompatible with their world view, Peter held on. He declared ‘Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.’ (John 6:68)
‘If you hold to my teaching, then are you my disciples’ (John 8:31)
Christ’s Great Commission of discipleship (Matt. 28:19) is undergirded by holding to Christ’s teachings in the face of modern distortions and hostile traditions and cultural norms from all quarters. We need to maintain a consistent thoughtful challenge to a spiritually reckless society in church, at work and at home. For instance, Christ opposed form and ritual when it became repetitive, obstructive and unhelpful to ordinary outsiders and externalised. He challenged self-promoting civic-mindedness. He challenged the cultural distractions that drew inordinate time and attention away from thoughtful reflection upon God. The scripture was His defence against error.
An angry exchange with the Pharisees followed his display of God’s amnesty towards the publicly shamed adulteress.
In that exchange, Jesus also explained what freedom really is, ‘Every who sins is a slave to sin, Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ (John 8:34, 35). Sin is enslavement, dragging us back to the imprisonment of our senses and short-term satisfaction. Under the power of sin, we cannot choose, for it is not so much self-rule, as addiction and self-delusion. Freedom is to escape the slavery of sin, rather than accept deception. There’s no middle ground, we either surrender to God’s yearning for our exclusive devotion, or await dispossession after a life enslaved to the double-minded pursuit of worldly advancement (i.e. Mammon). Neither permits a rival. Since Christ is the eternal Son, He can share His permanent status in God’s household, ending the perpetual empty cycle of earthly accumulation and the distortions caused by godless policies, attractions and notions at every turn, however strongly-held.
So, our Great Commission is really to expose the deceits of our era with gospel truth before our society completely disintegrates. It’s a call to declare to the world, by judicious word and example, the completeness of Jesus as the cure for our futile man-made distractions: the credit-crazed retail madness, the domestic property shrine-building, the techno-latry, the constant binges on food and alcohol and the lure of irresponsible relationships. It is not simply to win converts at truth’s expense.
It is to follow Christ in climbing His mountain of progressive freedom from worldly accumulation, self-promotion and distraction. So, wherever we are now, however far from the summit, however fearful of that path, let’s promise to keep hold of each other’s hands and start that journey today.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)