Jesus Helps us Find the Way

August 23, 2020

Matthew 16:13-20

How many of you have set out on a journey or destination only to have plans upended and everything not go according to the itinerary that you had compiled? Perhaps the journey you have set out on is a destination unknown, not know why you are going, other than there is something within you that is guiding you.

If we went back 2000 years ago and asked the disciples about their experience with Jesus, they would tell us that they had no idea where they were going, but knew that Jesus was leading the way and they were eager to follow.  

I recently watched a movie, titled The Way. It stars Martin Sheen as Tom and his real life son, Emilio Estevez playing his on-screen son, Daniel. The movie begins with heartbreak as Tom learns of his son’s death in France, just as he is setting off to begin the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is a roughly 500-mile walk that begins in France and ends in Spain at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the Shrine of St. James the Great. This is believed to be the route that James traveled to spread the good news through Europe after Jesus’ death and resurrection. People have been making this trek for centuries and it can be a very personal journey.

Before Tom departs for France to retrieve Daniel’s body, he goes to his local parish where the priest asks if he would like him to pray with him. Tom’s response is, “What for?” And this pretty much sums up where his faith currently resides. When he finds out what Daniel was planning to do, he makes the decision to begin and finish the walk for him. People walk the Camino de Santiago for various reasons and when Tom began, it was not for spiritual reasons. Tom is Catholic, but as he tells an American priest he meets on the route, he is one of those Christmas and Easter people.

The walk on the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way, is a life transforming event and as Tom nears the end of the walk you can see him being transformed and in his own way, coming to know Jesus on a much deeper level that opens up his heart.

Our gospel lesson this morning explores who Jesus is. Actually, more like, Jesus wants to know who people are saying he is. The significance of this taking place in Caesarea Philippi cannot be overlooked. In Caesarea Philippi, one could find a Temple to the Greek god, Pan and other pagan gods, and not to mention Herod’s son had built a temple in honor of Caesar Augustus. For the proclamation of Jesus being named the Messiah in this spot, carried much weight and highlights the divinity found within his human being.

For many, it could be easy to reject Jesus among the other possible gods to be worshipped in Caesarea Philippi. It can be easy to get misled by those that are false idols and self-made gods. It can be easy to focus on oneself and completely disregard the message that Jesus is trying to spread throughout the Galilean countryside. In our own brokenness, we too can fall into these traps and lose sight of Jesus the Christ.

In Jesus asking the disciples who do they say he is, he is inviting them to truly look deep into their hearts and comprehend who Jesus is at this time and place. They have listened and observed him enough now, and Peter is the one bold enough to proclaim him the Messiah. As much as he can stick his foot in his mouth, for this day, Peter gets the gold star! It is in Jesus, that the disciples begin to encounter their true selves. It is in Jesus that we can begin to know our true selves.

It is a journey. It was not a mistake that those first followers referring to Christianity as The Way. They knew it was the way to the truth, the light, and freedom. Somewhere along the way, we have lost the importance of this and there is no time better than now to regain that truth that Jesus asks us to look for within our own beings. Who do you say Jesus is?

You must explore that question for yourself, with the help of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As Martin Luther says in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism:

I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort
believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him.
But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel,
enlightened me with his gifts,
and sanctified and kept me in true faith.

You may not be able to walk the Camino de Santiago to search within to find Jesus, but as you continue on in your own faith journey, because none of us can say we have reached the ultimate end, may the Holy Spirit work up within you all that is good and loving in the eyes of Jesus Christ our Lord.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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