13 Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15 He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. 18 I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. 19 I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.
If I were to ask each of you, “Who do you say I am?” what would you say? Would you give some surface answers, the basics of my life, what you know about me? Or would you get at the heart of who I am as a person? Or you could always go “google” me to see what comes up. This past week at D Min orientation, one of our assignments was to google one of our classmates to see what came up about them. In other words, we were to learn about someone via their “online persona” and then post a description online for all of the other students to see. I found out that if you were to get to know me just based on my online persona, you would find out that I am a wife, pastor, singer, and dog lover, an author of a blog and a published article, a pastor selected to be in the Wabash Pastoral Leadership program, and someone who is interested in a pair of boots online! It’s unfortunately true that many of us today believe that we can get to know someone just by searching for them online.
Answering the question, “Who do you say I am?” has gotten more and more difficult to answer. It’s more difficult today to really get to know someone. But this question today from Jesus, “Who do you say I am?” is perhaps the most important question posed to us and the most important question we must answer for ourselves. This is the question on which our entire Christian faith is based, and how we answer is the starting point for a fruitful journey of Christian discipleship. Before we get too intimidated, it’s reassuring to know that we are given some hints for good answers to this burning question in today’s text. Notice that Jesus begins questioning his disciples by first asking them, “Who do people say that I am?” and they give some answers right away: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets come back from the dead. But then he really drives it home by looking directly at them- putting them on the spot- “But who do YOU say that I am?” I always imagine an awkward moment of silence here with the disciples looking back and forth at each other, not knowing what to say. And finally, after what seems like an eternity, Peter speaks up and gives his answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” With these words, Peter gets right to the heart of it all- proclaiming Jesus as the Christ- a profession of faith that is a game changer. But with these words also comes an entirely new understanding of who Jesus is. He is not John the Baptist come back to life, he is not simply a prophet or another false messiah- he is THE messiah- THE Christ.
For us to really understand Peter’s profession, we have to understand the meaning of the words he chooses. To say that Jesus is the Christ is to say that Jesus is the anointed one. To be anointed was an act only reserved for kings, royalty, and the elite. A special kind of oil was reserved for the task (pistos oil)- something similar to our olive oil today. Theologian and author Leonard Sweet points out that there were two different kinds of oils used primarily for cooking, healing, and sometimes for anointing in ancient Israel. The one reserved for kings and the elite was “pistos” oil, similar to olive oil, and “cristos” oil, which was the common oil for all the people. It is no coincidence, then, that Jesus, the Christ (or Christos) calls to mind this common oil for all the people. When Peter professes Jesus as the Christ, he is professing him to be the Christ who is anointed with the most common of oils- cristos oil, as opposed to the oil reserved for royalty and the elite- pistos oil. (http://thepracticeofdiscovery.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/christos-for-the-common-man/)
Pistos oil was something like olive oil, while cristos oil would resemble something very much like Crisco today. Since I don’t know too much about cooking and uses for Crisco, I turn to this great scene from The Help to help my understanding about its uses, and hopefully yours if you’re like me and do not know too much about it either!
I’ve heard it said that you cannot make fried chicken with olive oil because it will burn. You can, however (and apparently should!) make fried chicken with Crisco. Jesus, the Crisco Messiah, anointed with the oil for the common people. Jesus, the Crisco messiah who can take the heat. Jesus, the Crisco messiah who took on the scandalous nature of the label itself. To be Jesus the Christ, the Crisco Messiah, was to proclaim that he came for all people- not just the elite and privileged who were anointed with royal oil. He literally takes on the role as “the greasy one,” humbling himself to the common, everyday, scandalous nature of humanity. Jesus is the Crisco Messiah for all people- the kind of king who lays down his life for his subjects- not just a certain class of people, but for all of his people.
When Peter proclaims Jesus as the Christ, he is proclaiming him (in our terms today) as the Crisco Messiah. The Messiah for all, not just a certain few. This would have been a revolutionary and dangerous role for Jesus and his followers. The Crisco Messiah is one who all may come to know and follow, and that put him in danger of giving up his own life, which is exactly what ended up happening. No wonder he told his disciples not to tell anyone who he was in this text. He knew that the world was not yet ready for the implications of a Crisco Messiah.
Sometimes I think that the world is still not ready for the Crisco Messiah. Sometimes it seems that we create the Jesus that we are comfortable with, who looks like us, who says only the things that we want to hear or the things that we tend to agree with. To join Peter in his profession of Jesus as Christ, the Crisco Messiah, we have to be willing to accept Jesus for who he actually is- the messiah for all- that includes you, me, and those with whom we disagree. That includes those near and far, those who do harm to us or to others, those who struggle in this life to find out for themselves the richness of God’s grace. Jesus is the Crisco Messiah for even those who do not yet know him or who will never know him or profess him as such.
But as we see in our text this morning, there is both reward and challenge for those who do, in fact, profess Jesus as the Christ. After Peter’s profession, Jesus tells him that he will be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven and upon this rock (Peter means “rock) the church will be built. Throughout the gospels, Jesus’ teachings focus a lot on the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. When Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven, he talks about it in parables using the most basic and everyday things to describe what it is like and how it can be accomplished. The kingdom of heaven is almost never described as a future place where we go when we die, but rather a future where the world is as it should be. The kingdom of heaven is to be right here on earth where there is peace, harmony, and where people actually practice Jesus’ command to love God with all of our heart, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Jesus gives Peter the key to the kingdom of heaven. And it starts with Peter’s profession of Jesus as the Christ for all people and choosing to enter into personal relationship with him. But personal relationship with Jesus as the Christ is not the end- not even close. When we choose this kind of relationship with Jesus, we are given the keys to the kingdom- we are given the keys to make the world a better place, to bring peace, and to build the church where the kingdom can be experienced by everyone. The question is, what will we do with the keys that we are given? Will we use them to open the door for all to experience Jesus as the Christ for all people? Or will we use them to keep people outside, only to stare at a locked door? Or will we end up with too many keys and not know which one unlocks the door?
That’s the problem sometimes, isn’t it? I have a collection of keys somewhere in my house or office and no idea what door or lock they go to, and I’d venture to say that you have a similar collection in your home. They are homeless keys without purpose. In the movie, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a 9 year old boy searches all over New York City to find the lock to a key that he found in his dad’s closet after his dad died in the September 11 attacks. Here is a brief glimpse of the story and journey.
Like this grieving little boy, we, too are sent on a journey with a key to find what it opens and what it reveals to us, as if our lives depended upon it. In our case, the key is Jesus Christ, and the lock we must seek and find is the kingdom. Jesus gives us the key so that we don’t have to sort through many unknown ones to find the one- we are already been given it. It us up to us, then, to use the key we are given in Jesus as the Christ to unlock the kingdom for ourselves and for others. This begins with our profession of Jesus as the Christ in our personal lives, and followed by offering all that we can to make this community, this world, a better place. This begins by using our keys to open the door for others to experience God and not by shutting anyone out. The keys we are given unlock many doors that are not meant to be locked with people standing on the outside. We are meant to open the door so that all may experience Jesus as the Crisco Messiah- one who comes for all people.
The key to discipleship and ultimately the kingdom begins with this question from the Crisco Messiah: “Who do you say I am?” On this question hinges our faith, our hearts, and our lives as followers of Jesus and as we wear the label “Christian.” Christianity is a relationship with the Crisco Messiah- the messiah for all people. When we profess Jesus as the Christ, we are then given the key to a life-changing relationship with him as the Lord and Savior of our own life, and then we must use that key to unlock the kingdom, to unlock the doors of the church, to unlock to the doors to our hearts, and let Jesus the Christ in, and all persons will follow. Jesus, our Crisco Messiah gives us the key. Will we use it to unlock the door for everyone? Or only a select few? Are we willing to open our hearts to Jesus as the Christ? Amen.