Devotional for September 16th—Who do you say Jesus is?
Written by Pastor Mark
It’s a pretty simple question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” The answer is anything but simple. The identity of Jesus was high jacked at one point in the history of the church. Around the year 300 Constantine had a vision. He saw a cross illuminated in the sky and heard a voice (from heaven?) command him, “In this sign conquer!” It is the moment that Christianity stopped being a small group ministry dedicated to the servant life—feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and housing the homeless. At that point in history, the church went mainstream, it was linked arm in arm with the military might and political power. The cross stopped being a symbol of the horrible cost of discipleship and started being a symbol of power and kingdom building. This is the point at which Christians started building impressive church buildings, and no doubt, the beginning of church committees.
Yea for Peter! He gets the question right. In the Gospel lesson Jesus asks the disciples first who do other people say he is, then asks the disciples point, blank, “Who do you say that I am?” That’s a very different question. Jesus also gives his own answer, and his answer is shocking. He does not identify himself as a master, or a messiah, or a prince, or ruler, he only shares that he is one who will be betrayed and who will suffer. Jesus’ description is very similar to the suffering servant outline in the 50th chapter of Isaiah in today’s first lesson. This is too much for Peter. He tries to protest. We can not be sure what Peter thought the Messiah would be, or do, but we can safely say it did not include suffering and betrayal.
Constantine might have sided with Peter. Who would we side with? Who is this Jesus guy? How committed are we to following his ways? Do we have an unexpressed assumption that following Jesus means we will be able to avoid suffering? I don’t think many of us would say that, but we might say that being a Christian makes a positive difference in our lives. We live happier, more fulfilled lives because we follow and believe in Jesus.
The question for today requires a response. Someone recently gave me a book about different responses to faith in our daily lives. Some of us put up rigid barriers and are not willing to question the bedrock principles on which that faith is based. Some of us question everything and respond to questions of faith with critical sarcasm. Just guess which party I fall into? It is such a challenge (for me at least) to give a positive testimony to what I actually do believe. Here is my effort.
Jesus was an itinerant, self taught, Jewish Rabi who lived in first century Palestine. He did not participate in the organized religion of his day, but instead dedicated his life to teaching and living with a small group of people. He taught a radical approach to faith grounded in love (even of enemies) non-judgment, and God’s loving initiative towards all people. He had terrible tastes in friends and hung out with the worst types of people. He drank wine and liked to feast and party with his friends. Jesus dedicated his ministry to restoring people to God’s loving embrace. He did this by healing them of their physical diseases, calming their oppressed spirits and teaching them so that they would not be ignorant about God and the way God works.
Jesus was at the center of a non-violent movement whose goal was to change everything. This was threatening to both the religious leaders of his day as well as the political leaders. These powerful, non-violent, anti-conformist activities caused him to be murdered by those in power.
Jesus died, and then was able to appear to his disciples. Many are saying that this physical resurrection was not necessary, but I think it is true, and critical to faith.
OK, that’s my two cents on who I say Jesus is . . . now it’s your turn!
Quotes for the Week
We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. Jonathan Swift
Well, I just said that Jesus and I were both Jewish and that neither of us ever had a job, we never had a home, we never married and we traveled around the countryside irritating people.
Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable or of the timid. It demands and creates heroic souls like Wesley, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, John Paul the Second, and Billy Graham. Each showed, in their own way, the relentless and powerful influence of the message of Jesus Christ. Mitt Romney
My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. President Barack Obama
1st Lesson Isaiah 50:4-9 (The Message)
4-9The Master, God, has given me
a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
and I didn’t go back to sleep,
didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
stood there and took it while they beat me,
held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
confident that I’ll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
socks and shirts, fodder for moths!
Gospel Lesson Mark 8:27-38 (The Message)
27Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?”
28“Some say ‘John the Baptizer,'” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.'”
29He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”
Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.”
30-32Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.
32-33But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”
34-37Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?
38“If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”
Questions for the Week
Who do you say Jesus is?
How does God work?
Name a painful experiences you have been through. How did you get through it?