Where we put out time and effort tells the world a little bit of who we are. If you see the same guy at the hockey game every time you go you would say, “he is a sports fan.” Maybe someone else sees him at his day job bagging groceries and think of him as a grocery guy. Perhaps to some he is the next-door neighbour with too many dogs. Why are there so many opinions about him? Why don’t we just ask him who he is? Well, if you ask him he says, “I am God.”
People can say whatever they want about themselves. I could tell you that I am the president of the United States! I could say I am a famous hockey player. I could say that I am the first man who set foot on mars! Why would you believe any of this? Perhaps, if you saw it in action, then you would be convinced. If I showed you myself on TV, or pulled the footage from that Martian space pod, or you saw the secret service surrounding me. These would be proofs that I am who I say I am.
The question I would like us to ask this morning is, “who is Jesus.” Even greater than that, “who is Jesus to you?” It’s less about who he says that he is and more who we say he is. To us Jesus could be many different things at different stages of life and depending on the context in which we find him.
“Who do you say that I am?” It is the famous question that Jesus not only asks us all, but once asked his disciples. He wanted the whole world, but especially his closest followers, to decide for themselves who Jesus was. He discovers the going cultural theories and then hones in on the hearts of his followers.
27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
The people thought many things about Jesus. He was a great prophet like John the Baptist, a wonderful teacher, a magic man like Elijah (performing wonders in the name of God. He was a political leader and conquering king. But the real question that Jesus asks is “who do you say that I am.” Peter answers for the whole group when he said, “you are the Messiah.”
Despite all of this, Jesus did not come to fulfill a human prophecy. He came to fulfill his heavenly mission. He came not to fit the design of others, but to be what God designed him to be. He wanted people to discover him and what he was about not through hearsay or gossip, but through his own words and deeds. He was not only their Messiah but God’s Messiah. He was more concerned about fulfilling the mission God had for him than that which the people wanted him to do.
God’s mission will be hard. He didn’t call him to be a great teacher than every loved. He didn’t send Jesus into a world that was waiting with open arms. He send his son to a world that did not know him, to a people who wouldn’t accept him, a foreigner filled with light in a world of darkness. He send Jesus to die. What a hard line to walk! How much easier if would have been for Jesus to just be the people’s Messiah instead of God’s Christ, yet he accepted his calling to be Christ and Messianic mission from his Father. He accepted that his destiny to die, and he wants his closest friends to understand what he was about to do.
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
His Enemy sneered through the words of Peter. Jesus is haunted by the shadow of the desert. Peter tempts Jesus to conform to the ways of the world, to take the easy way out, to bow down to the whims of his followers and serve them (just as Satan wanted Jesus to bow down to him in the wilderness). The son of God, once again, stays true to his mission and rejects Peter’s desires of Satan’s design. He says, “you are not concerned about my Father’s mission for me, but your own. You say I am the ‘Messiah’ the Anointed One, but of whose kingdom am I anointed? Yours or God’s?”
Don’t we do the same thing today when Jesus comes into our lives, walks with us, and tells us about his kingdom. He urges us to question who he is and we say, “you are the Anointed One,” but don’t truly understand what we are saying. When the rubber comes to meet the road and Jesus tells us that there is suffering to come we say, “no Lord! May it never be!” We become more concerned with our understanding of what it means for Jesus to be he the king of our human kingdom than the plan of God working in and through us, whatever might come. Jesus doesn’t always fit into our mission for our lives, but he always stays true to God’s mission. Sometimes he is forced to rebuke us and say, “get behind me! You are more concerned about your own life and how I can fit into it than what I am doing in this world.” Sometimes we get in Jesus’ way, trying to make him what he is not.
Jesus mission is about bringing life (not a life to come in the last days, but being the resurrection in and through us to the world. Raising from the dead those who are caught in their sinful patterns.
Many of us die daily, but not in the way that Paul preached. We don’t die to ourselves letting the Anointed One live through us with resurrection power greater than we could possibly think or imagine. We die in our sin letting rot reign in our own personal kingdoms. Yet even when we make these dead-end choices Deity made flesh drop in to redeem us.
This is the story of Lazarus. Dead. Rotting. Done. When Jesus comes to visit the grief stricken family they have one thing to say. “This isn’t supposed to be. This isn’t the Jesus I know.”
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Don’t we do the same thing in the midst of our suffering? We shake our fist at God and cry, “If you had only been here, none of this would have happened!” But sometimes pain, and even death, is part of God’s story for us.
Martha doesn’t understand this. She says, “Yes, in the last days, my brother will rise again… but who cares about that right now! How does that help me today? How can prophecy solve my painful predicament?”
But Jesus says, “you don’t understand. It’s not about who you thought I was, or who you want me to be. I am not the Anointed One of your kingdom. You are a member of mine! I didn’t promise you no pain or death, but promise resurrection amidst the pain! And no, not some vain hope of resurrection some day. I am the resurrection power in your life now! My plan is not to problem-solve or problem-avoid, but problem-overcome—so much so that my resurrection power working in and among you will make death seem like a mere shadow on a sunny day. Yes, you will die… but you will live! It will be as if you never died!”
This changes Martha’s idea of Jesus completely. It changes her so much that she replies, “You are the Anointed One,” but even greater than that, “you are the one who has come into this world. You have come into my world, my life, and I trust that you will draw me out into the kingdom of God breaking open all around me through resurrection power for today!”
If anyone ever understood what it meant to live in the midst of troubles of this world with God’s greater mission in mind it was Jesus. He felt the pain, but didn’t run away. He knew that through the suffering God’s resurrection power would reign. He embraced the intersection of death and life with the words of John 12:27-28.
27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
This is how committed Jesus was to being on mission for God. He was sold out so much so that he was ready to embrace the pain, live in its midst, and even die for the cause. Jesus could have started his own kingdom, ruled in his own way, become the greatest celebrity of all time… but he didn’t. He could have avoided the pain, but he wouldn’t. He was willing to walk the path to the very end knowing that life in the kingdom is not about a lack of pain but finding eternal life breaking out of the suffering through the resurrection power of God within!”
We are often tempted to turn from the path of truth. It could be Satan in the dark desert moments or our closest friends when everything seems to be going well. The question is not ‘who does everyone else say Jesus is’… but ‘who do you say I am?’ Is Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One on mission for God or a man on a mission for us? Are we willing to trust that even though there is pain in this life it is somehow part of God’s story for us? Are we willing to face the pain head on and say with Jesus, “Father, glorify your name through the pain.” Or perhaps we will settle for Martha’s answer, “God,if you had only been here… If you have only been who I want you to be I wouldn’t be experiencing this death right now.”
Thy will be done. Bring the suffering. Let us bathe in the pain that litters the road. Let us no turn or run away as we are prone to do, but look to draw closer to You in the presence of the pain. Let the resurrection power of Jesus fill us, renew us, and flow into this world from us. The resurrection and the life can only infuse the dead, so let us face death. The comforter and healer can only find room in the suffering, so cause us to suffer. The Messiah, Christ, Anointed One can only provide for those who are willing to serve him, suffer for him, even die for him, so let us be willing.
As we seek to find life in the resurrection power of Christ, exchanging hearts and minds today, may we first find solace in our suffering.