Who Am I

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

Surround Yourself

The founder and creator of LARABARS shared her secret to success on NPR recently. After telling her story of how she made protein bars in small batches in her kitchen with her father, she goes on to explain that bringing in revenue of over five million dollars in the second year (!) was due to the fact that all the way along, she “surrounded herself with people who believed in her.”

That really hit home for me. All of my life’s joys and moments of feeling accomplished were times when I felt the tangible support of people who believed in me. I am blessed to have a family who believes in me. They might not always agree with me, or believe in the same things I believe in, but they believe in me. I am also blessed with two best friends who have run alongside of me for ten years who believe in me. I have a third who walks dogs with me and uplifts me in the same way. They have gotten me through some very rough times when I was under attack professionally, personally, and spiritually. They also don’t always agree with me, but they have stood by me through thick and thin. Their steadfast faith in me carried me through times when I felt weak, unsure, and insecure. I would have just up and quit several times, had it not been for all these blessings.

I often think of Jesus and his devotion to his disciples. They were a motley crew, who at moments really came through for our Lord, and at other times, failed miserably.

We all know the story of Peter’s heartbreaking denial of Jesus the night before his crucifixion. Lest we be hasty to judge, do you think you would have done any better? With soldiers and swords challenging you, with the impossibility of who Jesus REALLY was looking more incredible by the moment, wouldn’t you have wanted to flee as well? Doubt is a part of the faith journey. It helps us get to where we are going.

So let’s take a look at Peter’s redemption, and see if we can recall a time when we, too, were doubtful, and then believed:

John 21:15-25 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Reinstates Peter

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

These words reinstated Peter, and he went on to become the rock and the foundation of the church. They gave him a chance to reclaim himself as someone who DID believe in Jesus, even though he let Jesus down in the final hour. You see, Peter didn’t always believe in Jesus, but Jesus always believed in Peter. And he believes in you, too.

This causes us to reflect on the fact that even our closest supporters can fail us. They can miss a cue, misread a moment, respond out of a selfish place, or just not see our need.

Love them anyway. Forgive them anyway. Offer a way back with open arms. And surround yourself with others who do believe in you.

People who are close to you who don’t believe in you can be a millstone around your neck. It’s up to you to shed them, or forgive them. But in either case, keep on keeping on, aligning yourself with those who uplift you and cheer you on no matter what. And better yet, be an encourager for those whom you believe in. It makes all the difference in the world.

Friends on the Beach by David Bevel Jones.