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Anchored In Hope - Anchored in the Messiah

"“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Mark 8:29

There is an old story which floats around college campuses on a regular basis. There was a professor who was known for being rather strict when it came to students being on time for class, especially when it came to exam days. One day, one of his unfortunate students overslept and arrived late for the test. Despite the professor taunting the student that they would never had enough time to get all the way through the exam, and being late meant that any work he did do wouldn’t be counted anyway, the student insisted on being able to take the test.

The student sits down and begins to write furiously, attempting to finish the exam as quickly and accurately as possible. One by one, the other students finish, hand in their test, and leave the classroom while our over-sleeper continues to work just as fast as he can. The time for the class period to officially ends comes, and goes, and still he writes. When he finally finishes he brings the completed exam up to the professor who, rather smugly, tells the student his work has been for nothing, the exam will not be accepted.

The student responds by asking, “Do you know who I am?” “No,” the professor replies. Again, the student asks and again the professor replies that he does not know who the student is. They go back and forth several more times with each of them getting louder and more agitated with each round. The student finally shouts, “Do you REALLY not have any idea who I am?!” “No, I do not know nor do I care who you are!” the professor shouts back. “GOOD!” shouts the student has he stuffs his test in the middle of the large pile of tests on the desk and walks out of the door.

I’m sure there is an element of truth to the story and I’m also sure that parts of it have been added or exaggerated over the years of re-telling by students who wish they could do the same thing. Regardless, it is a story about the pros and cons of being well-known. The student was able to use his relative anonymity to essentially force the professor to accept and grade his test. The professor likely regretted his arrogance and lack of interest in getting to know the name of each student.

In Mark 8, Jesus asks his disciples a similar question, “Who do you say that I am?” At this point in Jesus’ ministry, people are starting to take notice. He isn’t just another random Rabbi. He isn’t just another random gifted public speaker. His knowledge of the scriptures goes way beyond what one would expect of a carpenter’s son. He is performing incredible miracles. He is gathering an audience.

The problem is that people still aren’t seeing Jesus for who he truly is. They see him as a great teacher or prophet. They see him as someone who might be able to help them out, heal them, feed them a meal. They see him as someone who could potentially lead them in a political victory to gain independence and freedom from Roman rule. Very few see him as the long awaited, promised Messiah.

So when Peter answers, “You are the Messiah,” it tells us that those closest to Jesus are beginning to understand that there is something different about Jesus. They haven’t figured it out yet. Read on to verses 31-33. When Jesus begins to tell them exactly what being the Messiah will mean for him, Peter took him aside to set him straight.

I want to just stop for a moment and ponder the absurdity of that move. Peter took aside Jesus, the SON OF GOD, to tell him he didn’t have it right when it came to what it would mean to be the Messiah. You see, while Peter had figured out the Jesus was special, that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for, he couldn’t comprehend exactly what that meant for all of humanity: past, present, and future.

Peter’s misstep should be a humbling reminder for us of our limited perspective when it comes to Jesus. Even with the benefit of hindsight, we still so often miss exactly who Jesus is, what it really means for Jesus to be the Messiah. We still get caught up in seeing Jesus primarily as someone who can offer us something, who can do something for us.

When I was a camp counselor, way back in the day, we had a skit we did called McJesus. Someone would “drive up” to the window to order the Jesus they wanted for the day. Sometimes they wanted the Jesus who would perform miracles and heal them. Other times they would want the Jesus who forgave their mistakes but didn’t expect them to try and do any better in the future. Perhaps they wanted the Jesus who got angry and flipped tables to do something about those “other people” who were sinning. In the end, everything was sold out except for the real Jesus.

When you stop and consider the real Jesus, it can be humbling to realize just how much we don’t actually want the real Jesus as a daily part of our life. The real Jesus sought to spend time with the sinners and outcasts of his world. The real Jesus shunned political power choosing to instead minister and bring dignity to those in his society who had little social capital. He touched the lepers to bring the healing and talked to the woman at the well to offer her a different path in life.

To bring that into our modern, American culture, I’m convinced that Jesus would be hanging out at rehab facilities and homeless shelters. I don’t think he would be at a rally for any president or political party, but meeting privately with those politicians who truly wanted to serve the people instead of their pocket books or special interests. I don’t think he would be the most popular preacher on YouTube or the pastor of a mega church because his messages would, over time, be too challenging and uncomfortable for most people.

We like to think that we would be better than the religious leaders of his day who eventually worked with the political powers to have Jesus crucified. But in order to be better, we have to be willing to embrace the teachings of Jesus which make us uncomfortable, which challenge us, just as excitedly as we embrace the teachings which reaffirm our beliefs and are in line with our actions.

Who do you say I am? It’s a question Jesus is still asking each of us today. It’s more than a question to answer in confirmation class or by quoting a famous theologian. It’s a question which is best answered first and foremost by our actions as we strive to live the way Jesus taught us to live.

Follow Up:

- Did you know we have set the theme verses for each day of our summer theme to music? Check out our YouTube page to learn the songs and actions!

- When you consider the Jesus we read about in the Gospels, is your Jesus more of McJesus or the real Jesus?

- Which teachings of Jesus are harder for you to follow in your life? Which ones are easy to embrace?


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