February 28, 2021

Who and How Do We Say That Jesus Is?

Pasto KJ Kim

Mark 8: 31-38

In today’s passage, Peter, who just confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, rebuked Jesus, “God, forbit it, Lord. This must never happen to you.”

It is easy for us to skip over Peter’s shock and revulsion at the prospect of a suffering and dying Messiah on the cross because we know the end of the story—the triumph of resurrection glory, heavenly ascension, and lavish gifts of the Spirit.

But we remember that the image of the Cross had no religious meaning at that time, since Jesus had not yet died on one. A cross was simply the method of execution preferred by the Roman government like an electric chair or a lethal injection.

When we are honest with ourselves, we can probably all relate to Peter’s confusion as he grappled with who Jesus was, what he was doing, and why he was doing it.

Peter was blinded by his own preconceptions and conviction about what the Messiah should be.

Two thousand years later, now, the cross is more than a symbol of Jesus’s death. Almost every Christian sanctuary has more than one. Perhaps most houses have a variety of crosses on the wall or on a shelf in the living room or bedroom. And maybe everyone likes to wear the cross as an accessory.

I invite us to wrestle with these questions for this Lenten season, “Who and how do we say that Jesus is?”

Our “rebukes” may begin with gentle neglect by skipping Jesus’s invitation for a cross-less course to the crown. Or we might just close our eyes by saying, “Let Jesus keep dying on the cross on behalf of us.” How often are we guilty of this reaction?

Jesus’ invitation to take up our own crosses to be his disciples is still valid, especially in these forty days. Opportunities are daily before us, when we may give our lives sacrificially to acts of love, compassion, justice, and peace.

When we are finally willing to accept Jesus for who he is, the suffering one who lays down his life for others, then, we can understand who we are to be, and denying self, we can take up the cross and follow him.

Jesus still questions us, “Who do you say that I am? Wake up! Take up your cross by denying self and by being ready to die self in Christ. Then, follow me and walk with me.”

Amen.