Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be The Messiah

This week's scriptures are Genesis 7:1-16 and Mark 8:27-38.

This week's Markan passage is the first of three times that Jesus speaks about his suffering and death. He does it as the counterpoint to Peter's answer to the question, "who do you say that I am?" Peter's answer, as you probably remember was, "you are the Christ, the son of the living God."

It's a wonderful answer....as far as it went.

But the fireworks that take place between Peter and Jesus immediately afterward let us know that there is something about Peter's answer that isn't wrong....it just isn't right enough.

Whatever Peter's mental image was of Jesus being the Christ, it didn't include Jesus suffering and dying. It didn't include the kind of sacrifice and anguish that Jesus is describing. So Peter pulls Jesus aside and they have this screaming match (to 'rebuke' means to scream at) about Jesus' view of His ministry and calling.

This leads to Jesus' famous comments about 'denying ones self taking up one's cross.' A passage that I imagine has been as misused and misunderstood as any in scripture.

We'll look more closely at this story on Saturday at the Bible Study Brunch and again on Sunday in worship.

But for now, I'd like to just look at the fact that there is a great gulf between Peter's confession and his understanding. I think that's true for most of us....I know it is for me. I believe in Jesus. I believe that He is the Son of God. I believe that He is the Messiah. But my understanding of what that means is a constantly unfolding thing.

When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I was a child. I understood as much as I probably could at that age; and my decision was sincere. But that faith would not serve me well now. It is not big enough to carry me through the days of my adult life.

But that's not all. There is something about the direction of our faith to consider as well. Dr. Jones told a wonderful story on Sunday about a woman in the slums of El Salvador who welcomed him into her home. For her, the direction of her faith said, 'welcome the stranger in Christ's name.' It was, in her poverty ridden situation, a direction of sacrifice.

Peter's ideas about the direction of the Messiah didn't include suffering and death. That's where he and Jesus had their argument. Now Jesus didn't send Peter home, kick him out of the disciples, or stop talking to him. They had a knock down, drag out fight about what it meant to be the Messiah....and follow the Messiah.

I'd like to say that I've learned a lot from this story....that I've learned from Peter's experience to never argue with Jesus about what it means to follow Him. I'd really, really like to say that.....but I can't. My life is a constant struggle with my understanding of what it means to be a disciple. Your's may be as well.

But we're in good company. This seems to be the common theme with all of Jesus' disciples; their growing, ongoing, lifelong struggle with their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

And so we will struggle together on Saturday and Sunday. We'll examine some of the stories and try to understand what we need to do: what to 'lay down, to deny ourselves' and how to 'take up our cross' and follow.

I hope you'll join us.



Jeremy said...

Actually, Peter's answer sounds very familiar to this student - it sounds like the "easy" answer, the superficial answer. It doesn't seem to have much depth to me - though maybe such statements in that culture (and in the vernacular language of the time) had some additional layers of meaning. I'm just not sure on that point.

I would agree with Stephen that the Peter's mental image of Peter seems to be (from other passages) to be rather simplistic (not that believing Jesus to be the Son of God is a simple thing to grasp/accept!)

In any case, I, too, am confused about how far "denying oneself" should go or what it means at various points of our lives.

I'm looking forward to a great conversation/discussion with everyone on Saturday!

Anonymous said...

I think it's hard to tell sometimes when we're arguing with God/Jesus and when we're growing. Do our views and experiences change because we outgrow them, or are we like Peter and denying the truth? How can we tell the difference?

It seemed like Jesus was most angry with Peter because he didn't want to be held back ("Get behind me Satan") rather than reprimanding Peter for how he should live his own life.

So I guess that's an important thing to consider when we're discerning if our changing views come from ourselves or God. Are we interfering with anyone else living out their faith? Are we interferring with God working in us? If not, then we're probably safe to keep seeking and questioning. But if we could be interfering then maybe we need to make sure we're not in denial about something like Peter.

Broadneck Baptist Church said...

Uploaded Dr. Jones' sermon 3-18-09.