Summary: "Who do you say that I am?"
A representative of "Teach America" visited Duke University, one of those rich Ivy League kind of universities.
She stood up in front of the large group and said to them," I can tell by looking at you that I have probably come to the wrong place. Somebody told me this was a BMW campus and I can believe it looking at you. Just looking at you, I can tell you are a success. Why would you be on this campus if you were not successful and heading for successful jobs.
"And yet here I stand, hoping to talk one of you into giving away your life in the toughest job you will ever have. I am looking for people to go into the hollows of West Virginia, into the ghettos of South Los Angeles and teach in some of the most difficult schools in the world. Last year two of our teachers were killed on the job.
"I can tell, just by looking at you, that none of you are interested in that. So go on to law school, or whatever successful thing you are planning on doing.
"But if by chance, some of you just happen to be interested, I’ve got some brochures here. Meeting over."
With that, the whole group stood up, pushed up the aisles and ran to the front a fought over the brochures.
People want to be a part of something important, something bigger than themselves.
Jesus, who has kept the people breathless trying to keep up to him, asks the disciples, "Who do people say that I am? Here they were at Ceasarea Philippi, the very centre of Roman power and all that is wise and they answer, "Oh that’s easy -- John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets.
Then Jesus gets personal -- "who do you say that I am?" Peter, always near the front of the crowd blurts out, "You are the Messiah!"
Jesus has been marching the disciples and all those who would follow all over the country side. In Mark, especially, Jesus is always on his way somewhere else. Mark’s favourite word must be ’immediately’ because no sooner has one thing happened that Jesus is ’immediately’ off some where else.
You have to think the disciples must have been breathless. They want to follow Jesus but they are always a step behind. No sooner than they think they have Jesus figured out and he takes them to new places, asks them to consider new thoughts, new ways of living, shows them another side of who he is .
This may be why the early Christian Church was called "The Way". They were part of a journey -- following Jesus, not knowing where they were going, or what lay ahead but that Jesus was leading and that was enough.
So Jesus asks the disciples, as he asks us, "Who do you say that I am?" And a breathless Peter says, "You are the Messiah!", knowing that this Jesus is the leader they want to follow. H ere is the one who is about something important; one who heals, gives hope, shatters preconceived notions. This is the leader that keeps pulling them out of what is comfortable and throwing them into something new.
Jesus begins to tell what the journey will look like. There will be rejection and death for him as he heads for Jerusalem and crucifixion.
Peter, revealing that he is still one step behind, blurts out, "No it will never happen, you are too good a person for that!"
And so Jesus rebukes Peter telling him that he isn’t thinking like a person on the Way. The Way which must first journey through death. There is no time or place on this journey to seek out the comfortable.
Faith is a journey, faith is not knowing certain things, memorizing facts.
Jesus says, "Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things" Faith is relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Faith is committing ourselves to the journey and hanging on for the ride not knowing where the journey will lead us, but we do know who the leader is.
A Lutheran gift to the Christian faith is the articulation of the Theology of the Cross . Life as a Christian will have pain and suffering but in the midst of that pain we will find Jesus suffering with us and walking with us through our pain to resurrection on the other side. It is the midst of pain that we experience Jesus most acutely-- where our faith grows stronger.
Being a Christian does not mean an absence of pain. We read in Psalm 23 "Even though I walk through the shadow of death. . ."
The "human things" want to hold on to us, we want to hang on to something because the journey can be unsettling. Like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration wanting to build tents for Jesus and the prophets. We try to make faith into a set of fundamental beliefs that we must adhere to, we try to force our church to remain static in a time of rapid change. Change has always been a fact of life even if now it is so very rapid.