From the service on 12 September



A Reflection from Kim Topham




Everywhere the disciples went they probably heard rumours and whispers in the crowd about Jesus.  People would have asked them ‘who is this man? ‘How does he do those healings?’ ‘Where does he get his power from?’  Jesus asked the disciples a question…. who do people say he is.   They tell him that people think he is John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and some say one of the prophets.


Then Jesus asked another question: “who do you say that I am?’.  He has asked about others, but what matter most is what they think.  They may have hesitated to answer that one at the risk of being wrong and looking stupid.   As usual it is Peter who has the courage to respond, he knows who he thinks Jesus is and is willing to run the risk of being wrong.  Peter’s answer is right of course…. “You are the Messiah” he says. 


Then Jesus begins to teach them that He will suffer and be killed.  Peter takes Jesus to one side and indicates that this can’t be so – this is not what the disciples wanted to hear.  They believed that Jesus was the Messiah – he was on his way to glory and they were going with Him!  Even rising from the dead will not compensate for the horror of going to the cross.  The cross was the most painful and shameful punishment at the time.  We can only try and imagine how the disciples’ must have felt upon hearing this. 




What must they have thought when Jesus says that his followers must also take up their cross and follow him…… now we know how the story goes, we know the victory that was won on the cross, the triumph of the resurrection and the heavenly ascension, but they really had no idea, even though he has told them straight.


Many people wear a cross today, as I do, as a sign of my faith.  The New Testament points to the image of the cross as a focus for the redeeming work of Christ.  Without Christ’s death on the Cross, God’s power over death would not have been revealed.  God’s love would not have been visible through the resurrection.  The cross points to the saving love of God for all humanity for all time.


The word disciple means a close follower, being a close follower of Jesus isn’t always easy.  Jesus says we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.  I believe this is a call to lead an unselfish life, to choose God’s way rather than our own.  We live in a very self-centred world; Jesus calls us to living a different way.   Instead of relying on our own resources, God calls us to pick up his resources.  God’s resource is a cross. To the disciples, the cross meant humility, shame and death, but for God it is a symbol of forgiveness, victory and power. 


It is a call to a new life with Christ at the centre.  The cross point to eternal life with God and a life lived in all its fullness, it is the narrow way; it can be the most difficult choice but the rewards are priceless. 


Jesus says ‘for what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?’  We can gain much in this life, we live in a material world, but what good will that do if we lose everything in the next life for all eternity.  When we choose to pick up our cross in this life, we collect our reward in crowns in the next. 


Our first reading this morning, the Psalmist is giving thanks and praise to God because God has inclined his ear toward man, he has delivered his soul.  For those who know God, it is always good to hear such testimonies, but others who are seeking truth and peace in this world need to hear this too.  When we find ourselves going through difficult times, it is always good to hear from others that these times can be endured, survived and overcome when we look to and trust in God’s care and provision.  The psalmist says he was delivered from death and restored to a life that feels like living, not just existing.


We can have many ideas of the way we should go and the things we should do, but it is when we turn and follow Jesus that we can find peace, joy and freedom.  To step out in faith – we step in to all God has for us.  It takes courage to step into the great unknown, but it is there that we meet the living God, the purpose of God, the promise of God and the goodness of God.  No-one said it will be easy.  We have to follow each day in small steps and trust him to guide us.  We can’t do this in our own strength but through daily prayer calling upon God and his power to strengthen us for our journey.