In Mark 8:27-37, we read about the struggles in the early church to place Jesus in some kind of traditional context. There are serious questions to be answered. If Jesus was the son of God, why would that God allow him to die a scandalous death? Who really was his father? Was he actually John the Baptist? If he wasn’t the Messiah, then perhaps he was Elijah, who would precede the Messiah. He certainly didn’t fit any of the expectations of a messiah. He wasn’t a king or a fierce warrior. He seemed to have no interest in insurrection or political leadership. In fact, his teaching and his behaviour were inconsistent with the expectations of a messiah
In this narrative, we “overhear”a conversation between Jesus and Peter. We become the disciples who were listening in. Jesus seems exasperated that Peter cannot understand, and therefore cannot correctly transmit Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is not the anticipated messiah, nor is he anyone else but his own unique self. Raised in the spiritual expression of the Judaism of his era, and in the experience of Roman occupation, Jesus is anointed by the suffering and oppression, initially of his own people. That broadens into an awareness of the potential for human liberation, both spiritually and politically.
That is a historical moment that we will always be reliving as his disciples. We each agree to follow a particular expression of Jesus’ mission and vision. To understand that mission and vision, we must learn the stories about him that shape our faith. And we need each other to test our ideas, to develop our shared understanding, to learn how to live out our faith.
Today, we’re going to baptize Noel into this community, this faith. And how will he learn this faith? Will you show him love, understanding, conviction, action in Jesus’ mission? We are promising today that we will never abandon him, we will be his safe harbour until he can choose Jesus’ path for himself. We will continue to be learners with him. And we will grow in discipleship with him.