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Sermon blog: Drive my car

March 8, 2017

Matthew 16:21-28

It’s been quite a time for Jesus’ apprentices (the disciples). Especially Peter.
Jesus has taken them away for some tuition. It was in a place called Caesarea Philippi. A place north of the sea of Galilee.

It was a place generally associated with pagan worship.

In this unlikely place Jesus held a brainstorming session.

“Question 1. Here’s the first question for discussion today. What are people saying about me? Who do they say I am?”

There are a few suggestions. Some bright sparks raise their hands.

Jesus is ready with the pen and white board.

“Some say John the Baptist”.


“Others say Elijah”.


“There are people also who say you are Jeremiah or one of the other prophets”.


All rather far-fetched theories if truth be told. You see all those men were dead, some of them for hundreds of years.

Effectively people were saying that in some way these people, even John recently beheaded, had come back from the dead – in the shape of Jesus.

And how could Jesus be John? They were cousins. Some would have seen John baptising Jesus in the river.

But it was fun to share the theories. These were the things they had heard.

“Question 2. So what do you say about me? Who am I?”

There’s an awkward silence, interrupted by the shuffling of paper.

James and John look at the floor. They avoid eye contact with Jesus. Matthew has a sip of mineral water. Thomas grabs another handful of pretzels. Philip and Andrew fiddle with their mobile phones.

It’s closer to the bone now. Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter.

After what seems like an age, Simon Peter speaks up. You can always rely on Simon Peter to have an answer. He’s rarely backward in coming forward.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.

The correct answer!

Peter has heard the truth from God.

Interestingly you could say that his brother Andrew told him, when they had started to follow Jesus: “We have found the Christ”, but now it seems he knows this for himself.

It’s a high point for Peter. God is going to build something on the back of this confession of faith.

But then oddly Jesus tells them to keep all this quiet.

But the apprentices are buzzing.

Peter is walking on air. If he could he’d get a certificate printed – and show it to everyone –

“Apprentice of the Week!”

“Surely if Jesus were Lord Sugar”, he thinks, “I would be HIRED!”

It’s a high.

We all get them.

We have a breakthrough and learn something new or experience a deepening of our relationship with God.

We see a friend or colleague come to faith in Jesus.

We spend time with thousands of other Christians worshipping at a New Wine or Spring Harvest.

We have success in our work. A promotion.

We marry the man or woman of our dreams.

But after that high, so often can come the low.

After the euphoria comes a dose of reality.

Just a short while after winning the Premier League, the results aren’t coming and you’re out of a job.

It’s at these sort of triumphant moments that Peter is often heard to open his mouth and put his foot in it.

Peter who had got it all SO RIGHT, was just about to get it SO WRONG.

It was an important lesson and Jesus was ready to move things on. The apprentices had a dream that this Jesus was really going to be someone. He was going to rise up and get rid of the Roman occupying forces.

So as Jesus continues there is puzzlement. Perhaps even annoyance at his words.

“Here’s the plan. I’ve got to go to Jerusalem”.

“This is it!” his apprentices are thinking.

“And I’m going to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders”.

They stop checking their text messages, not quite sure if they just heard him right.

I suppose it’s OK. Jesus won’t win the nation’s freedom without some sort of struggle.

But as they listen on, his words are astonishing and alarming.

“And I must be killed”. Their heads are spinning. They’re getting that sinking feeling in the pits of their stomachs. They are so thrown by this they don’t even hear him say “and on the third day I’ll come back to life”.

Someone needs to say something!

No one knows what to think, never mind what to say to Jesus in this moment.

Well, except Peter of course. You can always rely on Peter to say what he’s thinking. To say what many of the others are thinking.

In Peter’s mind, Jesus has really lost it. He’s said some odd things, but what is all this about?

So, not wishing to make a scene, he takes Jesus to one side. It is time for the pupil to show the teacher what he has learnt.

Jesus is here to win, not to be a loser.

“No way Jesus! What are you talking about? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is not what is going to happen. You need a rest. You’ve been working too hard”.

But there is no gentle let down for Peter. He has crossed the line. A mere man telling the Son of God what to do.

Jesus is so firm “Get behind me Satan. You are trying to trip me. You may understand human things, but have no idea about how the mind of God works”.

And so Jesus goes on to teach his apprentices again.

There’s another side to all this that they need to understand. That his way is a way of suffering.

And it’s not just his way.

It’s theirs too.

“If you want to come with me, you’ve got to deny your own comforts and dreams. If you’re going to follow me, you’ve got to carry a cross like I’m going to”.

Jesus chooses the way of suffering, and if they are truly his apprentices they will do the same. They are not to seek a path of glory for themselves.

“If all you want to do is hang onto your life, then you’ll end up with nothing. If you are prepared to lay all that down, then you’ll find real life”.

“You can have everything anyone could ever want in this life. Money, status, fame, perfect relationships, power, a wonderful home, possessions. But if you add all that up, it means nothing. You are the loser”.

“You can’t buy a real life”.

“There’s more to this life than looking after yourself. And if you live for me that will have its reward”.

“I’m coming back after 3 days as I said. And you will see what I have been talking about”.

Then they’ll see that his way has been right.

It’s such an encounter between Jesus and Peter.

It takes something for a pupil to stick his hand up in a lesson and say “Actually Sir, you are wrong”.

Not many of us would have the nerve to do this.

But Peter takes this to the ultimate degree, as he takes Jesus on one side.

This is a man telling God what to do.


I mean, none of us would ever do something like that?

Would we?

The words “Never” and “Lord” don’t work together.

In his Message version of verse 24, Eugene Peteron paraphrases Jesus’ words like this:

“You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am”.

Elsewhere the evangelist J John has compared our lives to a car.

Who’s in the driving seat of my life?

What about you?

Am I trying to drive my way, or am I trying go his way?

Do I, like Peter, actually think I know better than God, what is good for my life?

Recently my wife and I were on holiday in Somerset and we got lost on the way to our destination. We knew we were doing something wrong when we saw the sign for London!

This has happened too often recently.


We have always resisted the urge but we popped into Halfords and bought a SatNav.

The shop assistant was helpful and described the different features. As well as making sure you are going the right way it will also warn you when you are approaching speed cameras, and will tell you if you exceed the speed limit.

“Great” I said. “It’s going to be like having 2 wives in the car!”

Perhaps you like having someone in the car when you’re driving, telling you what to do.

My wife comes from a family of 4 generations of back seat (or passenger seat) drivers. She will always tell me when the speed limit is about to go down. And to be fair that is pretty useful.

I’ve noticed though that she never tells me when the speed limit is about to go up!

My youngest daughter is more concerned with the finer points of my driving. She will tell me when to change gear. “Can’t you hear that the engine is racing”.

It’s got to be something pretty drastic for me to give advice to a driver.

My mother-in-law has always been good for driving advice too. It’s been a while since all these women have been in the car with me at the same time.

She would instruct me to go straight across at the traffic lights. She would always add helpfully, “when they’re on green”.

Her mother was apparently pretty useful to have in the car on a long journey too. If her daughter and son-in-law were uncertain of the way, she would offer, “it must be that road over there, because that’s where everyone else is going”.

Helpful advice.

While I’m not one to give advice to drivers myself, as I’ve got older I have come to hate being a passenger in a car or even on public transport. I can be a nervous wreck if I think the driver is going to take a corner too fast. I’ll hang on and press my foot to the floor as if operating a brake.

I would much rather be in the driver’s seat. In control.

It takes something to let someone else take the wheel.

It takes something to let someone else take control of your life.

Peter wanted to assume control of things. He was right. Jesus was wrong.

He couldn’t see how absurd that idea was.

That the one who made him, who was there when the universe was created, might not actually know how life works.

The Christ, the Son of the Living God, is certain to know best.

His design for your life is best.

Is Jesus even part of your life? Is he in that car?

For so many “it’s my life” and it’s up to them how they live it. Looking back on their lives they’ll sing defiantly:


They’re the people who Jesus talked about. People who can appear to have everything in life, but actually, when you add it all up, they haven’t got anything that truly counts. They’ve wasted their time and energy on stuff that doesn’t matter.

You can try and live life your way, but Jesus came and announced himself to be THE WAY. No need for holy SatNav.

Follow him.

So you let him in the car. He’s a welcome passenger – good for a bit of advice when you need it.

J John says there is no doubt that for most Christians, Jesus is in the car. Maybe he is in the passenger seat. Perhaps he’s a back seat driver trying to grab our attention.

I’ll listen to him occasionally. I’ll go the way I want to go. I’ll trust my own intuition and wisdom. I’ll go the same way as everyone else seems to be going.

Maybe when I get stuck I’ll call on his help.

I don’t seem to know very much about the presence of Jesus in my life.

He needs to be in the driving seat; not me.

J John goes further and makes the point with some Christians that the situation is even worse. Jesus is not only not driving, he’s in the car, but he’s in the boot.

Some Christians put him in there to take him to church, where they get him out for an hour or so a week, and then they put him away again and drive home.

No one can see the difference in these people’s lives that being a follower of Jesus brings. The rest of the time they live for themselves. They buy the same stuff. They have the same ambitions as their colleagues. They even play fast and loose with their relationships.

Jesus needs to be in the driving seat; not them.

Perhaps they’re like Peter. Jesus says a lot of good stuff, but some of it is just too hard. He can’t really mean that literally.

Or maybe they’ve stopped hearing Jesus all together.

You see Jesus does not call his followers to do anything that he himself was not prepared to do.

He is our supreme example.

But he is much more than an example.

He is a Saviour.

He was ready to suffer even though he is God.

He was ready not just to become a man, not just to suffer, but also to die.

The way of suffering was his victory. His way of suffering is our hope.

His victory over death, which his apprentices seemed to be oblivious to, when he mentioned it, is a victory over our death too if we will trust in him.

His life is our life. Life in all its fullness.

There’s a cost to following him for sure, but it is THE WAY. The only way that makes sense. And it will be worth it, for Jesus will bring his reward.

Ask him into your lives, to take complete control. To take the driver’s seat. Get it the right way round.

Follow HIM.

But maybe you’ve done that. Hopefully you’re not one of those Sunday Christians who keeps Jesus in the boot out of harm’s way.

If you are, remember Jesus is for life not just for Sundays. He is there in every part of your life if you will let him be.

Or if Jesus is just an occasional advisor, then think again.

Maybe there are just parts of your life that you want to keep as they are. You really don’t want Jesus changing things too much.

It’s all about surrender.

It is about recognising one very important fact, as John Ortberg shares in his book “The me I want to be”:

“There is a God. It’s not you.”

As the song went “Everybody wants to rule the world”.

But it is God’s job to be God.

Let Jesus live in you by his Spirit. God the Holy Spirit is the one who will enable you to live in this way.

To be filled with the Spirit is not so much about receiving more of the Holy Spirit. It is about the Holy Spirit having more of us.

Putting our lives in the hands of the one we can really trust.

Let’s think about our response this morning.

It’s time to surrender:

  • Your life to God
  • Your plans
  • Your ambitions
  • Your finances
  • Your ministry for him
  • Your reputation

To you Jesus wants to say “I’m in the driving seat; not you”.


From → Christianity

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