Summary: Being a Christain means confessing that Jesus is the Messiah, but our views of what a Messiah should be doesn’t always fit Jesus.
As I as watching a Lakers game this last week, I saw Kobe Bryant put on an amazing shooting performance. Kobe set an NBA record by making 12 three point shots during the game, nine of the shots he made in a row. It was truly amazing to watch. I was excited, the fans at Staples Center were excited, Kobe’s teammates were excited. But I don’t think anyone was more excited than McDonalds. You see, Kobe is a celebrity spokesperson for McDonalds, so when Kobe does something amazing, it’s more publicity for McDonalds. In fact, I bet Sprite, Spalding, and Top Deck were all excited too, because Kobe Bryant is also a celebrity spokesperson for them as well.
Celebrity endorsements have become a regular part of sports and advertising. Whether it’s NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and his mom selling Campbell’s soup or Tiger Woods selling Nike shoes, every major corporation wants a celebrity spokesperson. In fact, some athletes make more money in their endorsements than they could ever hope to make competing in their sport.
Well I think many groups would love to have Jesus as their celebrity spokesperson. After all Jesus has a good image in the minds of many people. Most people in America view Jesus as honest and trustworthy. So if a movement or a group can make it appear that their ideas were endorsed by Jesus, that helps sell their ideas to the public. In fact, some people have done just that. Almost every single cultic religious group born in America, no matter how bizarre their beliefs, appeals to Jesus to endorse their beliefs. We saw this with Jim Jones and the People’s Temple in the 1970s. We also saw it with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in the 1990s.
A few years ago the animal rights group PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) launched a nationwide campaign to promote a vegetarian diet. Part of their campaign was a series of billboards and ads that showed an artistic rendition of Jesus, and underneath it claimed that Jesus was a vegetarian. If Jesus was a vegetarian, we should be too. Of course I went to PETA’s web site to find out what lost historical data they’d discovered to support their claim that Jesus was a vegetarian. And of course there was none. Never mind the fact that Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover with his disciples, which involved the eating of a lamb. Nevermind that he fed people fish and bread. I guess they missed those parts of the Bible. The folks at PETA simply thought it would persuade more people to become vegetarians if they claimed that Jesus was a vegetarian.
PETA might be brazen in their attempt to highjack Jesus for their own agenda, but they’re certainly not the only group to do it. All I can say about groups that do this is that Jesus isn’t who you think he is.
Today we’re going to see that Jesus’ first followers were also confused about who he was. They had the same tendency to try to push their own agenda on Jesus. I suppose we all struggle with the same thing. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark called Following Jesus in the Real World. Today we come to the heart of the book of Mark, the center point of Mark’s story. The event we look at today is a hinge in the story. And we’re going to see that virtually everyone was wrong about who Jesus was.