Peter Kay is the down to earth northern who shot to fame as a stand up comedian but is now one of the UK’s top entertainers, with voice over’s for children’s shows, song writing credits, and parts in Doctor Who, Coronation Street and other shows. His fame is such that having been the warm up act on Parkinson early in his career he was a guest on the final show. He has also written 3 books, the first of which, ‘The Sound of Laughter’, sold a million copies in its first 3 months. But what he remains famous for is his wit and distinctively different humour.
Peter Kay was born in Bolton and was an altar boy at the local Catholic Church and attended the local Catholic school. Here is what he wrote about it:
“It made me realise how dangerous Catholicism could be. When I was at school I was always told that if I was bad God would punish me and in the same breath I was told that God would forgive me for my sins whatever they were. It was a bit like being slapped one minute and getting a big cuddle the next. Catholicism sure knew how to mess with a child's head...
Over the years I've come to the conclusion that Catholicism is rife with hypocrisy and confusion. It's preyed on people like myself while people like myself were praying.”
Peter Kay isn’t alone in having that problem with the church. So what would Jesus say to Peter Kay?
It might surprise him and you but Jesus would agree about the repellent nature of hypocrisy. Turn to Matthew 23:1-12 where Jesus leads a stinging rebuke of the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy and the confusion they cause. Jesus problem with the religious authorities of his day is that they don’t do what they teach(3), they burden others(4) and they put on a good act(5). Not unlike many people’s experience of church today.
Jesus would, I think, then move on to show Peter Kay that he did not come to call people to religion, in fact he preached against religion, instead he came to call people to understand and live by grace. I think Jesus would want to clear up the confusion that Peter obviously has about what Jesus taught and who he was.
Answering the big question: How do you get right with God?
Is God a vengeful God who punishes wrong doing or is he a God who forgives no matter what your sin is? I think Jesus would want Peter to understand grace.
Look on a few verses to v37-39, it is a staggering statement from Jesus. As he surveys Jerusalem he almost reads out a charge sheet against it as a city “you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you...” What does such behaviour deserve? It deserves judgement.
But what does Jesus go on to say? How often I have longed to gather your children together...” Despite Israel’s repeated rejection of the messengers God sent, Jesus God’s Son expresses God’s heart desire to gather Israel, to love them, to forgive them. God is not a harsh petulant, changeable monster doling out punishment on a whim. He is gracious, he warns again and again and finally sends his son to warn again.
But Israel is not willing, Israel reject even Jesus. And if you reject God’s loving warning you will face judgement, in fact it is right that you do. God can forgive your sins no matter how bad they are but only if you are willing to accept and trust in Jesus.
And there lies another of Peter Kay’s problems, here’s what he says about Jesus:
"I also believe that a man called Jesus did walk the earth at one time but I don't think he was the superhero that the bible makes him out to be.... I think Jesus was just an ordinary person like me and you (well, I'm comparing you with myself in the hope you're not a mentalist). I believe that Jesus spoke about peace, he spoke about turning love into hate (sic), tears into laughter, war into peace... Jesus' teachings spread and quickly he built up a passionate following. People hung on to his every word, some would even walk for miles just to catch a glimpse of him... Ultimately Jesus' success bred contempt, people of power weren't fond of this hip and trendy preacher and before you could say 'Happy Days' Jesus was beaten, whipped, nailed to a cross and crucified. They didn't understand him, so they murdered him, in their ignorance and fear.
But Jesus had the last laugh. Apparently two days later on Easter Sunday he came back from the dead. Well, he'd have been daft not to with all those chocolate eggs knocking around."
Yet despite thinking Jesus is just an ordinary man he goes on to say life would be better if we lived it according to Jesus teachings.
You can't sit on the fence
What would Jesus say to that? You can’t sit on the fence. Either I did the things I did and I am who I say I am or I am not. Turn to Luke 5:17-26 – Jesus would want to show Peter that he can’t say his teaching is good but he was not God because of the claims he made about himself. That’s what Jesus shows the Pharisees as he heals this man – and as an aside all it takes for miracles to be possible is for God to exist. But Jesus claims are astonishing – he claims to be able to do what only God can do, forgive sin, if that isn’t true then he is either mad and his words should be ignored or bad in which case they should be destroyed.
Jesus would want Peter to focus not on religion but on deciding who he really is and what he came to do, to forgive sin.