Summary: he must deny himself, take up his Cross and follow me. So what do YOU think about that?
NR Methodist Church and NC 28-08-05
Take up your cross and follow me
Story: One man I admire greatly is Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941).
Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest, who was put in a Nazi concentration camp for his faith.
On May 28, 1941, he was transferred to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
One day a man in Kolbe’s block escaped. All of the men from that block were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand there all day with no food or drink.
At the end of the day, the man that had escaped was not found. So the Nazi commandant told the prisoners that ten men would be selected to die in the starvation cell in place of the one that had escaped.
One man, a polish sergeant was one of those selected.
He begged to be spared because he was worried that his family would not be able to survive without him.
As he was pleading with the commandant, Maximilian Kolbe silently stepped forward and stood before the commandant.
The commandant turned to him and asked him what he wanted.
Kolbe pointed to the polish sergeant and said,
"I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children."
The commandant stood silent for a moment in disbelief. He then allowed the sergeant to go back to his place in the ranks and Kolbe took his place in the starvation bunker.
In the starvation bunker, the guards who removed the bodies of those who had died, were used to the sounds of cursing and screaming. However when Kolbe and the nine others were put in the bunker, all they could hear was the sounds of Kolbe and his companions in the bunker singing hymns and praying.
When Kolbe couldn’t speak any longer due to hunger and lack of energy, he would whisper his prayers.
After two weeks, the cell had to be cleared out for more prisoners to be thrown in.
Only four prisoners were left alive by then and Kolbe was one of them. So the guards came in and gave each a lethal injection.
On August 14, 1941, Kolbe paid the ultimate price for following the call of his Master – “to take up his Cross and follow him.”
Today’s Gospel reading follows on from the momentous statement that Peter made - when Jesus asked him the question: “Who do people say that I am.”
It was a watershed event in the lives of the apostles –when Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mt 16:16)
1. 1. But what did Peter mean when he said “ You are the Christ the Son of the living God”
Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah – which simply means God’s anointed One
There were three types of people who would be anointed:
And in Jesus we find all three.
The Jews were expecting a Messiah who “would exercise God’s rule over God’s people” (The Message of Matthew – Michael Green p, 178)
But Jesus wasn’t the all conquering hero that the Jews were expecting – similar to Judas Maccabeus who had chased the occupying powers out in BC 167.
Indeed, this expectation of a political messiah explains the rather curious question that the disciples ask in Acts 1:6 just after the Resurrection when they say to Jesus:
"Lord are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?"
They hadn’t got the message - even by then that rather Jesus was the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
Peter recognised Jesus as the Messiah – the one sent by God.
But Peter recognised more. That Jesus wasn’t just human – but that he was divine too.
For a Jew like St Peter was – this was a seismic shift in his thinking – to call Jesus the Son of God.
All his life Peter had been taught that there is one God and never to worship a man as God.
It was one of the reasons which caused both the Jewish and Christian faiths to clash with Roman authority – because emperor worship was the touchstone of loyalty to the regime.
1. 1. 3. Caesarea Philippi
And the city where Jesus asked the disciples the question was not insignificant either.
For he asked them the question in Caesarea Philippi, a city about 25 miles northeast of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.
Caesarea Philippi was know for its plurality of religions. In that city alone there were 14 temples dedicated to the worship of Ba’al.
And high up on a prominent mountain peak you could see the ultimate blasphemy for a Jew – a temple dedicated to the worship of Caesar.