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

Lose your Life

In an earlier devotional, I referenced the story from Greek mythology of King Midas, who was granted a wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. Then he discovered that the food he needed to live could not be consumed, as it became gold the minute he touched it. I think this is a perfect allegory for what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?” We are reminded that when we pursue worldly goods, ideas, agendas, and behaviors, we risk losing the eternal life to which all are called through Christ Jesus.

Take a look at this exchange between Jesus and his disciples:

Mark 8 (Common English Bible)

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

Peter is admonished for thinking “human thoughts.” What human thoughts do you engage in that are ungodly? What behaviors would condemn you as someone speaking for Satan? Is Jesus trying to correct something in your life today? Say NO to yourself.

34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

The invitation is to follow Jesus. That means saying NO to all of the unholy things we say, do, think, and participate in. Those things are not worthy of a holy life, and those things are not worthy of you. Jesus invites us to take up our cross and follow him, and in that way we will save our lives as we lose them…in other words, lose the secular lives we are living and gain eternal lives in Christ.

The call is real. The circumstance is dire. The time is upon us. Lose your life because of Jesus, and you will gain heaven itself. And that, my friends, is good news.

Take Up Your Cross