1.Zachariah 12:10-11
Luke 9:18-22

                             " How our faith is challenged"

One of the Aesop fables that I most like  is one entitled The Hunter and the Woodman. It happened one day that a hunter was searching for the tracks of a Lion. He asked man felling oaks in the forest he had seen any marks of the lion's footsteps or knew where his lair  was. " Oh yes," said the woodman, " I will take you to the Lion himself." The Hunter turned pale from fear and stuttered, " No thanks. I did not ask that; it is only his tracks that I am looking for, not the Lion himself." In our dealing with God and with one another sometimes we are often like this hunter. We always profess that we stand for something but when the full implication of what we profess stares in the face we draw back.

In our today's gospel this exactly is what we see. Peter, speaking for himself and for the disciples, rightly confess his faith in Jesus as the long expected Messiah. However, when Jesus reveals to him and the disciples the implications of being the Messiah they begin to draw back. By confessing Jesus as the Messiah, the disciples show that they have gone above the " level" of the people who take Jesus to be nothing more than a prophet. Furthermore, Jesus continued to tell them they implications of what they had just said: " The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Luke9:22).

The challenging issue here is that apart from professing Jesus to be the Messiah, the disciples really are not ready for this. They are looking for Lion's foot prints and Jesus offers to take them face to face with the lion. Consequently they begin to withdraw. This withdrawing is more dramatic in the gospel of Matthew where Peter takes Jesus aside and tries to talk him out of the suffering  and death he was destined to undergo. However Jesus would rebuke him and call him Satan for seeing things from purely human than seeing things from God's point of view. Luke's version of the story which we read today focuses on the disciples as a whole and not particularly on Peter. This mighty explain why it does not include the dialogue and the incident between Jesus and Peter after had made the all-important confession. Rather Luke shows the disciples pulling back from Jesus at his arrest, suffering from death, which shows that they do not understand the implication of the faith they profess in Jesus as the Messiah.

The disciples are challenged by Jesus to think for themselves about the identity of Jesus. Jesus shows that he expects his followers to think for themselves when he asks them first, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"( v.18). And then the all-important question: " But who do you say that I am?"(v.20). From the conversation between Jesus and his disciples we learn a lesson that the disciples must inform themselves on what the current thinking is on any given issue. In our ordinary life communication one can achieve that by reading books, listening to the radio, watching the television and surfing the internet. However, over and above that, disciples must then in light of Christian faith and revelation make up their minds on the issues. Christians in this perspective are challenged not to allow themselves to internalize the voice of the people such that the voice of the "people" becomes the voice of their conscience. This is what Paul is telling us in Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this World, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect." As people of faith Jesus asks us to know what "people" around us are thinking but not necessary to endorse what they are thinking. Like the prophets of old, faithfulness to God demands that we follow the voice of God within us, which we call conscience, rather than popular opinion.

However, discerning what God is saying to us is only the first part of our challenge as Christians. The second and even more deciding part is following in practical life the implications of what God is saying to us. This actually is the crucial moment. This is facing up the lion- The lion that must be confronted before justice and peace can prevail. Anything short of this and we are like the hunter searching for lion trail and not the lion himself. Such a hunter achieves nothing at the end of the day. Soon we shall be invited, like the disciples to proclaim our faith in Christ. Let promise God that we shall not pull back when the implication and challenges of faith dawn on us in our day-to-day lives.

Let me end my sharing with the following story: Collin power, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff of the United States, narrated a story about three men working in construction company. The first man was digging but kept on complaining about the hardship of the job, the low salary and the scorching heat of the sun. The second man was resting on his shovel, his hands on his waist and bragging  about his knowledge on construction. He was telling his fellow workers he should not be digging because he knew better than all the rest. The third man didn't say a word but just kept on digging and digging. After ten years, the first man was still digging, the second man was long terminated and the third man became the owner of the construction company.

Dear brothers and sisters, what can we learn from this story? Somebody said that to enter God's Kingdom and to possess Jesus fully, it will not by doing grudging what Christ commands us to do like the first man; it will not be by boasting what we know about Christ and yet not doing what He wants us to do like the second man; it will only be by doing what He wants us to do like the second man; it will only be by doing faithfully what we have to do as His followers like the third man.

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Chapisha Maoni