notre dame montreal

Sermon preached by
The Reverend Neil Bramble-Chapman
13th April 2003

The following text represents the first sermon preached in our churches by the Reverend Neil Bramble-Chapman


In a sense it’s appropriate that my first sermon is on Jesus’ words, “Who do people say I am?”

Firstly because I expect a lot of people will be asking that question about me. Who is he? Where has he come from? Are you settling in? Are the children at school? Everyone has been very warm and welcoming.

Secondly, because I will be asking that of you – Who are you? What is your name –for the 1st,3rd or even5th time! Maybe more!!

In this passage, in his conversation with the Disciples and subsequent teaching, Jesus reveals significant information about himself and about his Mission and how he will achieve Salvation for humankind.

As in a conversation – as we reveal who we are…

Mark suggests that the people are beginning to understand who exactly Jesus is – Who is he – where does he come from – how can he heal the blind and the sick – why does he do it? Just who does he think he is?

What is in a name?

So Jesus asks his disciples – “What’s the word on the street about me then?”

The response is - Well some say John the Baptist, others Elijah and others a prophet.

But who do you then say I am? Jesus wants to know if they have any understanding of his Ministry and Mission so far.

Peter pipes up with “You are the Christ!” The words Christ and Messiah are interchangeable, they mean anointed, a special chosen one.

There are various views as to what the Messiah would be – common thread – powerful – raise an army to defeat the Romans. Free the Jews from oppression and occupation. He would claim a physical and earthly kingdom – he will be Victorious, Superior and Mighty.

As a consequence ideas of Defeat and Suffering would be entirely foreign to any conception of the Messiah.

But for Jesus this is not his concept of what it is to be the Messiah and so he cannot accept Peter’s confession and understanding and his implications of what it is to be the Messiah.

Even though He is the Messiah – the Saviour, the one to whom all others have pointed – Salvation will not come in the way, which is expected by Peter, the Disciples, or the people generally.

Jesus faces a dilemma – he can’t accept the lesser description of the people, that he is just John the Baptist, or Elijah, or a prophet, neither can he accept Peter’s concept of the Messiah.

Mark is very clever in his arrangement of this discussion because we now find Jesus presenting his case. He says this is what I am going to be and this is how I will bring about Salvation.

He seeks to open their hearts and minds to his understanding of the Messiah, revealing to them the Truth about himself and he changes the title used about him from Messiah to “Son of Man.

In Jewish thought “Son of Man” had no political or military overtones, it was rather used in terms of supernatural and transcendent qualities perhaps hinting at a more spiritual figure and kingdom.

Jesus adds that his earthly future will embrace defeat and suffering, this is his means of bringing about Salvation through his redemptive suffering and death. Radical – catch up

We use the word must a lot. What do we think we must have? We must have products; children must have these trainers or computer games. TV advertising tells us what we must have. Mobile phone advert, old phone covered by a paper bag.

In all of this conversation the word MUST has enormous significance. Here must means “this will come to pass because God the Father has decreed it. This is what God has planned for me.”

Jesus’ ferocious outburst to Peter, “Get behind me Satan,” arises because he perceives in Peter’s challenge a questioning of God’s will and purposes and also a temptation to Jesus not to follow the path laid down for him by God.

God has laid down a path of suffering and death for Jesus and here is Peter trying to persuade him otherwise, to take the easy option and avoid the pain, the suffering and ultimately his death.

This is the key moment in the Revelation of Jesus’s Ministry – where he begins to make clear the kind of Messiah he will be. His way involves taking up the cross, suffering and death.

Firstly – Expectations

What do we expect of Jesus and are they realistic. Do we expect him to do as we want? Do we expect anything at all.

What do we expect of one another – of me – what can I expect of you?

I think what we can at least realistically expect from Jesus is that he will radically challenge our way of thinking and challenge our views, assumptions about others and ourselves, our values, what we hold dear and what we consider to be important.- Peter a Hero/Jesus a victim.

I think we cannot do as the disciples tried and failed to do, that is to create Jesus in our image – make him what we want Him to be. Jesus is far more than we can ever imagine or conceive.

Secondly – Response

Thinking and reflecting upon this passage demands a response – are we to be like the disciples and say “You can’t possibly mean that your ministry involves pain and suffering because if we are your followers that might mean ……… that we suffer and know pain ourselves – or will we respond in faith? Seeking to take up our cross and follow Jesus?

What is your response and are you prepared for the possible consequences of your decision?