Great Leaders Ask Great Questions

August 24, 2014 

Matthew 16:13-20 

Great leaders ask great questions.  Charles “Chic” Thompson in his book, What a Great Idea! tells a story of a question that the president of Corning Glass Works once asked.  This one question was exceedingly profitable for Corning.  The question was addressed to Corning’s head of research.  The president of  the company noted matter of factly – Glass breaks.  Then he asked the engineer, “Why don’t you do something about that?”  The simple question led the lab to devote itself to a singular task:  “We’re going to prevent glass from breaking.”  The end result was Corning’s now-famous Corelle line of dinnerware.

Jesus and his disciples were in the region of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus turned to his disciples and asked a great question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 

I say this is a great question because it really is the defining question of life: what do you believe about Jesus? Think about it for a moment. To a certain extent, this question will determine your values, many of your attitudes and your general orientation toward life. If you believe Jesus was simply a great teacher like Buddha or Confucius . . . or simply the leader of one of the world’s great religions like Mohammed . . . or even a fascinating historical figure like Mahatma Gandhi--that is one thing. But if you believe that Jesus is who he said he is, the Son of God that is quite another situation. If he is the Son of God then he has a claim on our lives.  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”    

It is fascinating to learn what people were saying about Jesus. His disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

It could be because Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins. It has been suggested that perhaps they looked somewhat alike. Perhaps they bore a family resemblance. So, when people who had known John saw Jesus, they thought, this is John risen from the dead. That may sound a little far-fetched, but it is a possibility. Whatever the explanation, the disciples said that some of the people were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist. 

 Others suggested that he was Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. For centuries, the Jews believed that Elijah would return before the advent of the Messianic age, so when Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God, this seemed like a logical assumption. Jeremiah also figured in pre-Messianic prophecies. That is why he was a part of the conversation. The people were wrong in what they were saying about him, but it is evident that Jesus had captured their attention--John the Baptist, they said, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. 

 Then Jesus zeroed in on the heart of his question. He turned to his disciples and asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” That’s the question that matters, isn’t it? Who is Jesus to you? 

 It was, of course, Simon Peter who answered Christ’s question. Simon Peter got a lot of things wrong when he blurted out answers to Jesus’ questions, but this time he was exactly on target: “You are the Messiah,” he said, “the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” He then changes his name or nicknames him “Peter” which means “rock.” This passage is one of the pivotal passages in scripture. 

One of the primary reasons Jesus came into the world was to build the Church.  If I asked you, “Why did Jesus come into the world,”  some of you answer, “to die for our sins” or “to show us what God is like” or to teach us a better way.”  All of that is true.  But consider what his first action was after his own baptism.  He called the first disciples.  In other words he started a church. As I tell our kids at school often, especially when it is raining and we have Eucharist in the Commons, the church is not the building it is the people.  That’s us – you and me! As Christ’s church, we are the people set apart by God to transform the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of God.  

If that is true, and I believe it is, we need to keep our eyes focused on what Christ has called us to be and to do.  And what would that be? 

First of all, we are to provide a witness to God in the world.  One way we do that is by modeling for the world how people are to live in relationship to one another.  We are to model for the world the love of Christ.   

Second, we need to witness to God’s love for the world.  We need to reach out.  Today I want everyone to get a newsletter before going home.  The back page is a short survey to see what you would like to do in our church here at St. Andrew’s for our own community, and the second part is to see what we want to do as a community of faith for others.  There are just a few ideas but be creative.  Really ask yourself these two questions:  (1) what is God calling me to do this year? and (2) what is God calling our worshiping community to do to make a difference this year?  Then either mail it back to church, take a minute to fill it out today before you leave or bring it back to church next Sunday.  There are many more than the 12 disciples and look what they accomplished! 

In a recent book, Professor Reynolds Price suggest a different perspective on Jesus’s early years.  Instead of translating the word as carpenter which we have heard so often, the same word can be translated more broadly as building.  Jesus, the builder.  That takes on new meaning doesn’t it? Jesus spent three years teaching the disciples what they were to do after he would no longer be with them.  So from the beginning Christ devoted the major part of his ministry building a church -- not a church building but a church community.  Here at St. Andrew’s we already have the community.  Let’s find others to join us.  Did you know that last week we had 48 in attendance?  We had 18 visitors!  We are spreading the gospel message and that is fantastic.  Let’s keep it up. 

Christ has called us into being to be his body in the world – healing and visiting the sick, reconciling the world to God, bearing witness to God’s presence in the world by loving one another and by loving the world God created for us.  It is time we ALL help Jesus with his biggest construction job of all… building the church and spreading His word.  What will you do?  What will we do?