June 23, 2013: Who Do You Say I Am?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, teach us today to glory in our celebrity status as Christians, as Your beloved children who are the direct heirs of heavenly glory! Do so by enabling us to confess You and to willingly shoulder the cross of humility and sacrifice that comes from being one of Your holy disciples. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ULTIMATE CROSS-BEARER!

TEXT: Luke 9: 18-24

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

We live in a celebrity-driven culture. It seems almost everyone strives to get their “face-time” on TV, in the media, or for that matter on their “Facebook” page. What does all this say about people’s self-image? Doesn’t it say that they are insecure? It does to me. America loves celebrities. People want their pictures taken with them, want to live close to them, and drop the names of celebrities in conversation whenever possible. Many folks try to wrap their identity with that of their favorite celebrity.—If you doubt that, just watch the plethora of Bruins’ jerseys, Red Sox shirts, and other paraphernalia that many people wear. Celebrity status is big business.

I suppose the same could be said of Christians. Think of all the crosses worn around Christian necks? That being said, I don’t think very many believers view Christ as a celebrity or themselves as celebrities, either. Considering the fact that Jesus is the Ultimate Celebrity and the only one that matters at all in life, I find this a bit strange. But then, look at what Jesus says in our lesson: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for me will save it.” So basically, if you want Christian celebrity status you need to drop human glitz and glam in favor of humility. That’s a blow to the ego. No wonder people don’t flock to wear “Christ # 1” tee shirts!

Our lesson confronts us with a vital question that will determine whether or not any of us will be celebrities in heaven someday. So, let’s examine it as Christ asks:

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?

I

Jesus was traveling in Galilee with His disciples. He had recently delivered the Sermon on the Mount. He had healed the centurion’s servant. He had raised the youth of Nain from the dead. He had also fed the 5000+ with a miniscule amount of food. So, one day in private prayer Jesus asked His disciples a pointed question: “Who do the crowds say I am?” He wanted to know if His message had gotten through to them. He wanted to know if his preaching and miracles had broken through the hard human exterior we all possess.

The answer the disciples give is very instructive. It’s also quite sad. It showed that very few could yet wrap their minds and hearts around His divinity. They hadn’t yet made the connection between the long-promised Messiah and Jesus. “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.'” Considering the huge size of the crowds Christ was attracting, it was obvious they wanted to identify with His celebrity status. Maybe some of His “charm” would rub off on them!? But with this answer, it was obvious that the masses had missed the point entirely. For them, Christ the celebrity was about human fame and fortune and not about humble, self-sacrifice.

Then comes the question to the disciples: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter answered: ‘The Christ of God.'” Whew! That was a relief! At least they knew the correct answer. None of them had matching shirts that proclaimed: “Christ # 1” on the back. Instead, that Divine truth was inscribed into their hearts where it could do some good. We’d say: “They possessed saving faith.”

II

Christ isn’t into superficiality. He isn’t into trappings of religiosity. He’s all about the heart. He’s all about eternal truths that never go out of style. So as better to equip His disciples, He now feeds them some of those truths. “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone—(we could add: yet). And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.'”

Put in human terms that’s as if He were saying: “For the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup” they will play brilliantly yet lose every game!” In other words, on the surface of human understanding those words just don’t compute! They seem ridiculous. Well, in order to retrain their minds to think in Godly terms, Jesus goes on to add this: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

The denial Jesus is referring to isn’t the superficial kind that people think of today. Isn’t not acting meek in a crowd, or giving up chocolate for Lent, or never drinking alcohol. It’s not supporting every pan-handler at the subway station, or refusing any human honor. No, instead it’s about denying your “I’m in control of my life” attitude in favor of: “Thy will be done.” It’s about swallowing your pride on non-Godly issues, even if you know you’re right, and bearing with your weaker brother or sister. It’s about doing for others out of love for Jesus even if they never say: “Thank you.” True cross bearing is saying and doing for Christ, letting your light shine because you’re a believer, even if people question your motives and are not appreciative.

Ultimately when we give up living only for ourselves and looking out strictly for # 1 we lose our lives in Jesus’ love for us and for others. Finally, that’s exactly what Christ did in saving us. He lost His own life to save ingrates like us. And through Him we have found a new meaning to our lives which is far richer and more lasting than any earthly celebrity can even imagine.

My friends, take joy in your celebrity status as a Christian! Take joy in the fact that such status isn’t just “15 minutes of fame” but eternal. And bask in the quiet confidence that it brings. Amen