‘We have only one life to live! We need to live it well.’
How many of us really believe this? Most people have a sneaking suspicion that there is more to life – that death is not the end of our existence.
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity commented, If I find in myself desires which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Come with me to a significant question that Jesus put to his close followers. We read it in Mark 8:28: “Who do people say that I am?” he asked.
Up to this point, Mark tells us, Jesus’ followers seemed dull and obtuse in their understanding of him. They had seen first-hand his power and authority when at a word, he had healed the sick, commanded the powers of evil, and even raised the dead to life.
On one occasion they had been in a boat with him when a sudden storm threatened their very lives. When they cried out in fear, he calmed the tempest at a word. “Have you no faith?” he’d asked them. They saw his many miracles and they heard his teaching, yet they still didn’t understand.
Let’s think about this. Most of us have seen pictures that have two perspectives. We look at the drawing one way and we see a vase. We look at it another way and we see a face.
Sometimes we can look at a picture like this for hours and only see one thing. The second perspective remains hidden. Then we blink our eyes or turn our head and look back, and there the second perspective is. We wonder why we didn’t see it before. Psychologists call this a Gestalt phenomenon. It comes from the German word meaning shape or pattern.
The phenomenon can’t be broken up into logical stages. We can’t get half-way. It’s all or nothing. We either see the second perspective or we don’t.
Opinions about Jesus are a little like this. There have been times when I have talked with people for hours about him – answering questions, making points, developing the case that Jesus is who he claimed to be. Yet often people don’t see what is so obvious to me.
The ability to recognize the uniqueness of Jesus is an insight. We can’t organise it. It’s a perception we must have. It comes, not as a conclusion to a logical argument, but as a gift.
In the same way that people can be perplexed by picture puzzles, the disciples couldn’t make proper sense of Jesus.
Then came a critical moment. Jesus had taken them away to Caesarea Philippi, “Who do people say that I am?” he asked. Mark tells us they cited the popular perceptions: some say you’re Elijah, others, John the Baptist, and others, one of prophets.
It was obvious to everyone that Jesus was someone very impressive, but there had been impressive people before. The general consensus amongst the people seems to have been that Jesus belonged to the group of great ones in Israel’s history.
But Jesus was not content with this, “What about you?”. He pressed them: “Who do you say that I am?”
Suddenly, Peter seems to have got it. He’d probably thought about it before, but it was too crazy for words. But now the penny had dropped, and his blurred vision cleared. Jesus wasn’t just a prophet. He was the One the prophets had foreshadowed.
We can almost hear a click as Peter saw this new perspective. “You are the Christ”, he said.
How did Peter work this out? Was it the outcome of reasoned research? No. The moment of insight came, as it does for every true believer – out of the blue. It wasn’t a deduction or a discovery. It was revelation!
But there was something else: inspiration! The ministry of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 16:17 we read Jesus’ words: “… Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
It is here that we find the key to the meaning of life. To see that Jesus is no mere man but God in the flesh, is to see that there is much more to life than what we experience now. For to understand that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Messiah, God’s eternal Son who has set aside his true glory and become one of us, opens our minds and hearts to a hope and a joy that satisfies our deepest longings.
As we reflect on these deep matters of life we see that there is something mysterious in the way God opens our eyes. As we come to know the Jesus of the Gospel records, we come to realize that there are critical moments when we are conscious that Jesus is personally asking us: “Who do you say that I am?”
How do we come to experience this? We don’t have the advantage of having Jesus with us in the flesh. But we do have the reliable accounts from those who did meet him face-to-face – the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And we note that the account about Jesus is not just written up by one man, but four!
Richard Borgonon, a keynote speaker at the recent Anglican Connection Online Conference, spoke of a new Bible-reading series through the Gospel of John: ‘The Word One-to-One’. As the notes are already in place, all we need to do for friends we invite to coffee is to be ‘a page-turner’. The Word of God continues to do its work as in the days of Jesus.
And there is something else. God’s Holy Spirit is at work, convicting people everywhere of sin and opening blind eyes to who Jesus really is – the Christ, God’s Son, our Lord and Savior. Revelation and inspiration. A life-changing Gestalt moment!