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Nuclear authority

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ [the Anointed, the Empowered], the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matthew 16: 13-20

A few weeks ago a rather bizarre question captured the imagination of the British people. Jeremy Corbyn was about to be appointed Leader of the Opposition in the Westminster Parliament. If he ever became Prime Minister would he ever press the nuclear button?

Clarity was demanded on the issue. A British Prime Minister has authority over the dispatching of missiles with nuclear warheads. He or she is fully empowered – appointed by the people and the Sovereign to make such destructive decisions.

Way back in ancient times, kings were anointed to their kingship tasks – including going to war. At coronations, oil was applied and the king then had power and authority to act as he wished on behalf of his people.

Six years ago Tony Blair was anointed – empowered – to make decisions with regard to war against Iraq, against Saddam Hussein. The Chilcott enquiry will be another six months before reporting whether Mr Blair used that anointing aright.

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ (Jesus Christ, circa AD 30, to his disciples after his resurrection)

Gong back 2000 years from today, the man Jesus Christ was on earth and living in what is now Israel. He also was the Anointed. The second part of his name – Christ – is the Greek word for “Anointed”.

Why was Jesus “Anointed”? Did he have a nuclear button to press? Did he have a kingdom to defend, a realm to conquer?

One of Jesus’ closest followers was a former tax farmer named Matthew. He wrote an eye witness biography of Jesus in which he carefully reported that, about 18 months into Jesus’ public ministry in Israel, Jesus was walking towards the city of Caesarea Philippi. (See bold above) He asked his closest disciples what identity people were applying to him. The answer was varied: some said he was a resurrected John the Baptist; others a resurrected Elijah; yet others a resurrected Jeremiah - or a resurrected prophet of old. He was none of these.

Jesus then asked a question which is a very good one for each Jersey person to answer. “Who do you say that I am?” Imagine BBC Radio Jersey, in King Street today, asking you, “This Jesus. Who do you say that he is?”

Maybe someone there today would use Peter’s simple words in reply to Jesus: “You are the anointed one; the Son of the living God.” The empowered one. If so the Jeremy Corbyn question arises again. What was Jesus anointed, empowered, actually to do? Press the button?

Before you answer that look at what Jesus then said to Peter. “You are indeed blessed, Simon Son-of-Jonah, because flesh and blood has not shown this to you but my Father in heaven has shown it to you. It’s on this rock, this foundation stone, that I shall build my called-out people.”

 It looks as though Jesus is going to build – not destroy. He’s going to build a people - not kill people like the self-styled Islamic State.

‘The world’s idea of greatness is to rule, but Christian greatness consists in serving.’ (J C Ryle, writer and pastor, 1816-1900)

This is a world of killing – killing by nuclear button, killing empowered by manipulated information, killing because anointed, authorised as it were, by a killing god.

Is it possible that Jesus is calling out a people of non-killers – a people who follow him? After all, he was anointed, empowered, authorised to die, himself, for others.
And that’s what he did.
Richard Syvret

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