Schh You Know Who
Words for 11th Sunday after Trinity – 23 August 2020 – Parish of Felixstowe
A Cyber Sermon from the Vicarage
[Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’… 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16v15-16&20)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
One of the problems with a really good advertising programme is that people may enjoy the advert but not remember the product. This happened to me during my youth with the series for Schweppes Tonic Water adverts during the 1960s in which the actor presumed everyone already knew the product. I was so disappointed to discover there was not in fact a brand of tonic water called ‘You Know Who’.
This begs the question as to why, when the penny finally drops for Simon Peter, Jesus refuses some very good free press? And this is not the only time it occurs. These ‘Schh, Don’t Tell Anyone Who I Am’ moments are referred to as The Messianic Secret and are especially found in Mark’s Gospel. The explanations for its use are many though most think it is a literary device to keep listener’s attention – we sometimes forget that the Gospel was first told before it was written…
But there are other reasons why Jesus may not want his name and his calling spread abroad before his death and his resurrection.
Perhaps he wanted people to follow him because of his words rather than a people run after a title and yet another ‘false’ Messiah – of which there were plenty (Matthew 24v23-25)?
Perhaps he was concerned that people were seeking him for miracles and free food only and he wanted them to seek ‘True Bread’ (John 6.25-34)?
Perhaps he was worried that people might think that the Kingdom of Heaven was all about the Beatitudes when in fact there were crosses to be carried, about which Jesus will be berating Peter next Sunday.
Or perhaps this Messianic secret is not so much about telling the story of Jesus but about each of us claiming it as our own?
Remember the story, admittedly from another Gospel, of the Woman at the Well? Towards the end of the tale the townspeople of Sychar say to her;
‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’ (John 4v42)
Perhaps Jesus didn’t want Peter to tell others that he was the Messiah because he wanted each of us to make that declaration of faith for ourselves?
An oft used quote from Corrie ten Boom is that ‘God has no grandchildren’ which mirrors preachers frequently reminding congregations that ‘the church is only one generation away from extinction’. For this reason when clergy are licensed in the Church of England they are called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation the gospel of God’s love.
We are all missionaries, called each and every moment to make a response to the question Christ asks of Simon Peter, ‘who do you say that I am?’ and our answer cannot be ‘Schh, you know who’.
We find ourselves in a time when the world is descending once again into division and darkness, spurred on by the fear brought by a disease which is no respecter of person, nation, or race. At times like this, for Covid-19 will not be the only challenge to face our generation, more than ever we need to proclaim ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ and then prove it by living lives of self-sacrifice and care for others. If we do not God’s message of hope and love will wither and die.
The way in which we proclaim ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,’ will be different for each of us as God calls each of us to live the Gospel life in different ways.
Some will find themselves in a literal proclamation of the Gospel, which may seem to be a Five Star vocation, but without the acted out vocation of others sermons are just words and church services are simply a Sunday morning diversion.
Too often we have (as Kipling’s poem the Sons of Martha reminds us) made a false dichotomy between Martha and Mary. For the Gospel to prosper we need ‘Marthas’ and ‘Marys’, and each should honour the offering of the other. God’s love is to generous and the world’s need is too deep for us to not be active in both word and deed.
A phrase from my younger years in the faith continually challenges me. ‘If it were an offence to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’
Peter’s proclamation calls each and every one of us to be prisoners of love and convict’s of Christ. May the Holy Spirit give us the courage and strength to be both ‘hearers and doers of the Word’ (for some suggestion on Christian duties look up James 1v22-28) and live lives in which the love of God is made known for all to see and enjoy.
[This blog ‘Schh, you know who’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]