A Christmas without Christ would just be another holiday. Yet for many, even in our western society that still claims faint allegiances to the biblical story surrounding this season, Christmas will be little more than a break from the regular routines of life – a time for family, feasting and festivity rather than of heart-felt worship and thanksgiving to the God of heaven for the gift of His Son.
When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) He was asking more than a passing question out of curiosity as to the disciple’s opinion. Jesus was prompting the bold, often impetuous disciple to declare his personal confidence in the Person of the Christ. It was very important that the disciples understood Who Jesus was and what the ramifications were for His followers. They had to be made to feel more distinctly the chaotic contradictions of the popular judgement. They would stand in a place of isolation because they possessed a clearer light. With their great privilege would come greater responsibility. By virtue of their knowledge of the Christ, a gulf was opening up between themselves and their peers – something they would eventually experience most acutely.
It’s Really All About Jesus
The Gospel isolates the Christian from the world in terms of understanding and insight and aspiration and behaviour. “Who do you say that I am?” is the question, the answer to which settles everything for every man, woman and young person. We cannot run from the question, nor can we take refuge from it in the general opinion of the world around us.
This is the most significant of all questions ever asked – and the answer you give will reveal everything about who you are, in relation to Who Jesus is. If, with Peter, we reply to Jesus’ question, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) we must embrace its implications.
The Gospel has two parts: firstly, the baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is the Christ; and secondly, the Christ must suffer and enter into His glory. Jesus is making it clear to His followers, that He is not a disciple who does not cling to both, with mind and heart. Discipleship means imitation, and imitation for the Christian means self-crucifixion. As we contemplate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas, it behooves us to consider the daily responsibility we share as His people in this world: to take up our cross and follow Him.Why? … because Jesus desires no half-hearted disciples.
So what does this all mean for me – and for you?
It means that each of us has a cost to count and a commitment to make if we want to claim allegiance to Christ. Anything less than total surrender and radical commitment to God’s call on our lives is less than a normal Christian life.