When I was in college, a funny story circulated around campus during finals one semester. It seems that a professor was monitoring a large class that was taking their final in an auditorium. He could see a young man about half way up the room who was blatantly cheating off the papers of those around him. The professor decided to wait until the student walked his test down to the desk before confronting him.
As the student came forward to place his answer sheet on the stack of the other sheets, the professor held up his hand. “One moment, young man. I can’t accept your test. I watched you copying answers from everyone around you, and I am going to have to give you an F.”
The student hesitated for a moment, his test held against his chest. “Do you know who I AM?” he yelled. The professor was taken aback, and shook his head no. The student then spun around and yelled to the startled students who were still finishing their exams, “DOES ANYONE IN THIS ROOM KNOW WHO I AM??? They all looked around silently, and nobody answered.
With that, the student lifted up half of the exams on the desk, shoved his in the middle of the pile, and walked away.
I always think of that story when I read about the time that Jesus was traveling with his disciples and he asked the same question of them:
Mark 8(The Message)
27 Jesus 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.’”
29 He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”
Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.”
You just have to cheer for Peter right here. Peter was beloved by Jesus, but sometimes he missed the mark. He got it right this time, and Jesus was pleased. Indeed, Peter’s correct test answer earns all of them a new teaching that Jesus went on to deliver. They were worthy of the truth, and it was time for them to receive more of it.
30-32 Jesus 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.
32-33 But 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.”
Well, that didn’t last very long, did it? Peter slides from first in the class to almost expelled. His love for Jesus was so great, he had a ‘Jack Nicholson’ moment where truly couldn’t handle the truth. But Jesus knew that it was only the truth that would set them all free.
So he continued his class, and we would do well to lean in and learn from this:
34-37 Calling 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?
You are not in the driver’s seat. Embrace suffering…Jesus will show you how. Self-help is not the way, but self-sacrifice will gain you everything.
Whatever you do, don’t sell your soul.
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.”
Several years ago I taught a Bible study and a 90-year-old retired pastor signed up. On the first day, I expressed my surprise and delight that he was taking a Disciple One class, given his age and experience. He smiled and said, “Oh, I had to come! I am studying for my finals.”
May we all continue to learn and grow, right up until the final exam.
You Are the Christ by Kathy Schumacher