I wonder how many times you’ve been asked for your identity this summer? Purchasing tickets, checking in at hotels, writing name tags for your suitcase or perhaps presenting your passport at the security gate. Names are important. Letting people know who we are and what belongs to us is important. I’ve always liked giving names to things I own. My cars have all had names; Penny, Elsie, Lara, Hattie and ‘Looby Loo’ (my present old Freelander) to name a few.
It is in Matthews Gospel that we discover that we have two names; an earthly one and a heavenly one and the two are crucially linked. A name may identify us but do we truly know who we are? It is only when Simon understands, acknowledges and declares the identity of Jesus that he then begins to understand who he – Peter - really is.
Jesus asks his disciples a crucial question: who am I? It is a question that every human being during their lifetime is given to answer. We could ignore it, but until and unless we address it, we will miss out on the possibility of living life in all the fullness that God intended us to and that scripture and Jesus promises us is possible. Once Simon identifies Jesus for who he really is, then Jesus bestows his heavenly name and identity upon him. ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.’ Jesus is using two words for rock. The Greek word ‘petros’ refers to a stone or a pebble, whereas ‘petra’ (rock), is the mass of connected rock to which the pebble belongs. We may pick up a stone or a pebble from the beach or a hillside, but it doesn’t exist on its own, it belongs to something much bigger. When that is identified we know much more about it; where it came from, how it was created, its properties and qualities etc. In a similar way, once we recognise and receive Jesus for who He is, then and only then, do we begin the process of learning who we truly are and all the possibilities and potential that God our creator has placed within us.
Paul in his letter to the church in Rome states, that once we have recognised the truth about Jesus, our identity is changed and as such we need no longer conform to the pressures that the world places upon us, but instead, our lives can be, ‘transformed by the renewing of your, (our) minds’. What a wonderful thought and promise, that with God’s help, a new way of living is possible.
One way of helping with this, is to soak our minds in the word of God, to know the truth about Him and to speak this to ourselves when we need to hear it. We might be facing a difficult time with tough choices, challenges or temptation, but declaring God’s word over our lives at that moment fills us (and the situation) with the truth God has for us and it has the power to transform the place we are in and how we are feeling about it. For example; the last verse of Psalm 124 reminds us that, ‘Our help is in name of the Lord’, or 2 Timothy 1, v7 declares that, ‘the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.’
May your lives be filled with the knowledge and the truth of Jesus Christ as Saviour, enabling you to enjoy and live your life in freedom and with the power and joy that God intended was always yours to know.
With the Lord’s Blessing
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale