Monday, March 10, 2014

"Who Do You Say that He Is? (Mark 8:27-38) (again)

It seems that University Students in Japan are receiving bags of Koala poop before they take their tests. It is not a mean spirited prank, but rather a token of good luck. Koalas can hang from trees for up to 20 hours without losing their grip, and the idea is that the poop will help students “hold onto” the information long enough to take their test. Silly. Then again, people have the silliest ideas about what will help their fate. Growing up in the States I had friends who carried rabbit feet in their pockets. (As if that foot had helped that rabbit at all!) Living in Germany I see little models of pigs on sale every New Year for people to purchase that will supposedly bring them a year’s worth of good fortune. In Chile, being a catholic country, people preferred to carry a dead Jesus on a cross for the exact same reason. He was merely a good luck charm. The problem is a lot of the Baptists I know, who claim to know better and don’t carry any amulet around, have no better understanding of Jesus. He isn’t a charm. But He isn’t any better than a source good luck for one’s life.

Who Jesus REALLY is impacts who we are in relationship with Him.

I: Jesus’ disciples understood He was the Christ.

People all over were talking about Jesus. His ministry was causing a stir. However, most people had a bunch of wrong ideas as to who He was. Only the disciples understood—to some degree—who Jesus really was. He is the Messiah, the Christ.

People today still make the same claims. Jesus is a moral teacher, a great example, or even as much as a prophet of God. That is not enough. C.S. Lewis in his book “Mere Christianity” addresses this problem in what has been called Lewis’ Trilemma.

Jesus is not:

A good teacher: People who claim this have not looked at His teaching.

A good Example: If He is not God then He is merely a misguided and irrational revolutionary.

A prophet: Once again, when we look at His “prophecies” we have to come to another conclusion.

A madman or liar: That is certainly an option, just not one that we Christians would chose.

Jesus IS the Messiah. He is God and the savior of the world. But what does that mean?

II. The truth of the Christ was, however, something they did not understand.

Once they arrive at the correct conclusion, Jesus’ teaching shifts. He begins to elaborate on His mission; about His death and resurrection. This is where the disciples’ ever still limited understanding is revealed. They believe Him to be the messiah, but they have no idea what that really means. They had a false preconception of who the messiah would be.

Jesus is not:

A superhero, not a god with a little g: The Hebrew understanding of the Messiah was little better than some Greek or Roman idea of a god. In today’s culture we still have these pantheons of heroes. They are the superheroes of comics and movies. We don’t exactly worship them, but we build fandoms around them. We admire their stories and the ideas they communicate. It can be a religious experience for some. Unfortunately, many Christians are fans of Jesus rather than followers.

A religious figure: Religion is a human invention. Before humanity sinned, we had a relationship with the Creator. It wasn’t until that relationship was broken through our rebellion that we see religious paths to gods. The religion established and seen in the Old Testament was not a solution, but rather an education. God intended it to show us our need for Him and our incapacity to overcome our sin. Jesus never set out to create or lead just another religion amongst many. In fact, He railed against religion in His teaching.

A good luck charm: He did not come to give us assistance in our little plans, ideas, and goals in life. He came to offer us the chance to join God in His plan for creation as it was intended to be.

Jesus is the MESSIAH. He is God and the Savior of the world. But what does that imply for us?

III. When we make Jesus into something He is not, we misunderstand who we are.

Those who follow Jesus—who truly see Him for the Messiah of God’s salvation plan—die to themselves. They give up their little idea of a kingdom and take on their role in God’s true Kingdom. Jesus lists four reasons (four “whys and wherefores”) as to why this makes sense in light of the truth of the Gospel.

1st Wherefore: The Mechanics of Life

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.”

This is a paradoxical idea, but also something that we understand. Story after story has been told about the villain who wants to avoid death, and how that makes them not only an evil character but ultimately leads to their defeat in the face of a hero who is willing to die for the sake of good. It is the basis for characters such as Lord Voldemort or Darth Vader, and the source of the main plotline in those sagas. In God’s order, we are to leave our needs and safety in God’s hands and concentrate on doing His will and fulfilling His plans.

2nd Wherefore: The Economics of Life

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Today people are all about pleasure, comfort, and luxury. They see spiritual aims in life as being obstacles to those things. They only consider what is being offered in “the now.” They will do nearly anything that promises to make them feel good, and never mind the consequences.

3rd Wherefore: The Logic of the big picture

“For what can a man give in return for his soul?”

When Jesus phrases the exchange this way, it makes more sense. Who would agree to exchange their very life for any amount of money, or a drug, or an experience? It is hard to enjoy that buying power, that high, or that opportunity when you are dead. To make such a trade would be stupid. And what Jesus means is that living outside of God’s Kingdom is like making that deal.

4th Wherefore: The reality of two realms

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed.”

If what Jesus says—what people claiming to be Christians believe—is true, then there are two realms in life. The way things have been created to be--God’s Kingdom—and the lie that sin has woven—our delusion. How can someone claim to be a follower of Jesus, but remain ashamed and silent about the lie in which people are suffering? It does not add up. Those who are ashamed of Jesus need to reexamine their idea of faith.

If we say that we believe Jesus is the Messiah, then we have to live changed lives. To do otherwise puts our faith into question. We cannot afford to buy into the lie that Jesus Christ may just be our Savior and not necessarily our Lord.

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