Two cars are waiting at a stoplight, one behind the other. The light turns green, but the man in front doesn’t notice it. The woman in the car behind him begins pounding on her steering wheel and yelling at the man to move. The man doesn’t move. The woman continues ranting and raving at the man, pounding on her steering wheel and blowing the horn. Finally, as the light turns yellow, she shares an unfriendly hand gesture with him and screams profanity at him as she drives around him. The next thing she knows, she is being pulled over by a police officer, who promptly arrests her, puts her in the patrol car and takes her to jail, where she is fingerprinted, photographed, searched, booked and placed in a cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman comes, opens the cell door and escorts her back to the booking desk where her personal effects are waiting. He hands her her things and says, “I’m sorry for this mistake. But I was you blowing your horn, cussing and generally going crazy. Then I noticed the “What Would Jesus Do” bumper sticker, the “Follow Me to Sunday School” bumper sticker, and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. So, naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.”
What does the word “passion” mean to you? Does it have different meanings in different contexts? Dictionary.com says that “passion” is: the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces; intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; ardent affection; a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept; an object of desire or deep interest; and the sufferings of Jesus Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death. Intense feelings, ardent affection, strong desire, and the suffering of Jesus Christ. What an interesting mix.
People have always been divided on the issue of who Jesus really is. Remember the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ? Now, I am not going to use this space to either defend OR criticize Mel Gibson for some of his more public actions- that’s another topic for another time. Instead, let’s focus on what, for me, is one of the most powerful, impactful movies I have ever seen. It is a movie that I think everyone should see, but I have seen it twice (once during its original theatrical release and again last year with the Confirmation class) and both times left it thinking, “That movie sincerely changed me…and I’m not sure I will ever watch it again.” If you’ve seen the movie, you’re probably aware of just how radically different people’s responses were to it. Once reviewer said, “What Gibson has provided for me for the first time in my life is a visceral idea of what The Passion consisted of.” Another said, “The Passion is simply fabulous. It’s emotionally wrenching because it is brutally honest about the violence of Jesus’ death.” While still another said, “The holier than thou passion pummels its audience with action film cuts, slasher film makeup and two bit theology.” Pretty different responses to the same movie, but that’s just another day at the races for a topic as controversial as Jesus Christ- there’s bound to be a wide variety of responses. The movie’s controversial… Jesus is controversial. There’s bound to be a wide response to the question of who He is.
Some see Him as a great teacher…and nothing else. They reserve a spot for him among the greatest teachers in history, but see no divinity in Him- he IS man…He is just NOT God. Others believe Jesus thought some pretty strange things about Himself and taught some strange things about who He was, and so He must have been deluded. Then there’s a third group of people who think the Bible is a reliable account of who Jesus is. They think that Jesus reunited humanity with God by suffering, dying and rising again in our place. To Hindus, Jesus is a holy man…among other holy men. To Muslims, Jesus is a prophet of God. To atheists, there is no God, so Jesus is just the punchline of a joke. So…Political rebel, gentle teacher, wild-eyed prophet, carpenter’s son, Son of God- we’ve flipped over all the cards, would the mystery guest please stand up and reveal His true identity? I wrote a Classic Rock musical a few years ago called Free Ride: the Life and Times of Jesus Christ. I combined the Bible and about 40 Classic Rock Songs to tell the story of Jesus. And in this scene, where Jesus asks the disciples who He is, I used the song Who Are You (think CSI theme song) by The Who to ask the question. This kind of discussion has been going on since Jesus showed up; it’s nothing new. In fact, in today’s Scripture, Jesus brings it up Himself. And when He does, we are given some possible options.
Mark 8:27-29– “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi and on the way he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
“Who are You, really?”- a question we’ve all asked of God, of Jesus, in our lives. “I know who I WANT You to be…but who are you REALLY?” In today’s Scripture, Jesus asks the question, and the response is that some people say he is John the Baptist- a great prophet who called people back to God and was put to death. Maybe John the Baptist has been resurrected or maybe he didn’t really die. Other people felt he was Elijah, an Old Testament prophet who DIDN’T die, but instead went directly into God’s presence. Maybe God’s sent him back to help a new generation return to God. Still others say He’s a prophet ministering to the people of Israel in the name of God.
Jesus patiently hears them out…but isn’t satisfied with what they say. He responds, “But YOU… who do YOU say I am?” These guys have been with Jesus for three years- they’ve watched him teach, heal, drive out demons, even raise people from the dead- and after all that,
Jesus asks them what they think? Well, duh…what do You THINK they think? Peter answers for the group (no surprise there!)- “You are the Christ.”
Christ is a Greek word that transliterates the word “Messiah”, which points to the anointed one- a political picture. It is the person anointed to be the King of Israel, and at this particular time in Israel’s history they are desperately looking for the king promised by God who would destroy Israel’s enemies and establish an eternal kingdom. It wasn’t solely a political picture though- Israel was a religious nation and they understood that their prosperity couldn’t be separated from a right relationship with God. So Peter is saying that Jesus is the leader, the one they all had been expecting, the one who was coming to change everything. This image of the Messiah, the Christ, was planted, through centuries of longing, in the hearts of the people of Israel, and it eventually flourished and grew in Peter’s heart through the longing he experienced. I mentioned a minute ago, “Well, duh…what do You THINK they think?” But the reality is that Jesus had good cause to question them. Because not too long after that discussion, Peter, The Rock, strongly distances himself from Jesus, denying even knowing Him.
We all have such differing opinions. Don’t believe me? Think about a movie you really like. Then think about conversations you’ve had about that movie with others who think it’s the worst movie ever made. We were talking to our college-aged nephew at Christmas and Gone With the Wind came up. (My wife and I like that movie very much.) Our nephew said, “Oh, I hate that movie. It’s so boring! And it’s like, what, 6 hours long?!” Now think about when you have disagreed with…yourself! The first time I watched the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, I thought to myself, “Well, there’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back!” Then, for some yet unknown reason, I watched it again…and got it! Now it’s on my top-ten list!
The bottom line this morning is this: Jesus was one of three things, period- He was clinically insane, He was a bold-faced liar…or He the only begotten Son of God, sent to save us from our sin and offer us an eternity with Him. I mentioned that Peter completely denied Jesus 3 times just before the Crucifixion. But a few months later, we find Peter standing in front of thousands saying Jesus is the Lord and the Christ. Years later, Peter is willing to face crucifixion, even then not feeling worthy to die like Jesus but instead asking, begging to be hung upside down on the cross. He’s had years to forget these crazy ideas and stories and get on with his life, but he’s still willing to die for the message, for Jesus. He believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And that’s what I believe. But the question this morning is, “what do you believe?” Who is Jesus, really?
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!