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Jesus asks, "Who do say that I am?"

CS Lewis quote about Jesus



       “He said to His disciples, “…who do you say that I am?”.         Jesus, Matt 16:15


This Gospel passage was preached at our recent Rally Day Celebration.  It is a question meant to challenge not only the disciples, but generations of Christians throughout the centuries.

As you may or may not remember, Jesus asked this question while He was with His disciples in Caesarea Philippi.  This area had been a hotbed of pagan idol-worship through the centuries; it was no different in the time of Jesus. 

I don’t know what you picture when you hear “idol-worship.”  I think for many people we might have an image of a person in a hut bowing down before an object of wood or stone.  While this may represent some forms of idol-worship, to limit idol-worship to this picture is a very simple characterization.  It is a characterization that can enable us to think, “I’m glad I don’t live in that irrational world.”

Expressions of idol-worship are multi-faceted, but ultimately the purpose of idol-worship is the gaining of favor through submissive action.  Idol-worship involves the giving of something so that the participant might get something.  The nature of worship is intentionally setting something as the most important thing in a person’s life.  We all have our idols and by virtue of our sinful nature we often allow these idols to ascend to higher and higher positions in our lives in hopes of delivering on some promise, or even for the purpose of making a statement to those around us about our fervor or dedication.  

Two of Jesus’ disciples had ambitions of self-exaltation.  James and John wanted to be the most important people in Jesus’ kingdom.  Jesus told them if you want to be the greatest be a servant.  Peter boasted of his dedication, specifically that even if all the disciples ran from persecution he would not.  The claim was one of pride in his strength.  Jesus told Peter, tonight you are going to deny me three times. 

We all have our idols, and many of these idols look good and are even considered acceptable and reasonable to our peers. This creates a conflict as the whims of society change from one generation to the next.  The question, “who do you say that I am?” is meant to set the Christian’s eyes upon Jesus, and if we say, “you are the Son of God,” or “you are Lord,” we are meant to shift our goals from the things of the world to the things of God.  Throughout history it has been and is true that just because something is acceptable, or seems to offer promise, that does not mean it is good.  And anything that we put above our relationship to Christ, no matter how good is seems or looks, is not good.  True then and true today.

Jesus asks, “who do you say that I am?”  Our response to this question will impact how we live.  It will impact our peace.  It will impact how we view death.  It should impact how we prioritize activities in our lives.

In the prophet Isaiah’s day, most of the people of God were chasing after things that promised great rewards, but did not deliver on them.  They chased after things that caused them to neglect God because they simply did not have time left for God.  Rather than giving the first-fruits of time, talent, and treasure, God was given whatever was left over.  Chasing these false idols resulted in great harm to individuals and families.  God, speaking through the prophet, questions His people:  “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

The past few generations of parents have been facing in greater and greater measure demands for time, travel, and treasure for sanctioned activities of all kinds that promise, “If you do this your child will be happy and balanced.”  Has this happened?  No!  And studies are showing again and again, “No!”  The response to this has not been to cut back and simplify, instead the theory seems to be we will add even more.  It seems that for many, all of these expectations are, as Solomon said, “a chasing after the wind.”  Ecc 1:14

Those of you who are presently entrusted with the care of children, I would encourage you to consider the definition of the term “parenting.”  Merriam-Webster uses this definition: “the process of taking care of children until they are old enough to take care of themselves.”  They are your charge and you don’t have to give up your rights wholesale to any coach, team, leader, or club.  I can’t imagine any high-school leader in the 1970’s standing before a group of parents saying, “By the way, over the next three months I am claiming ten weekends, and for at least five of those you will be driving to either: Minot, Bismarck, Grand Forks, or Fargo.” 

I don’t know when parents gave up their rights….  Maybe they didn’t.  Maybe this is all good stuff, but that is not what any studies show.  Also, that is not what we are seeing in the lives of young adults who come out of this temporary world of unsustainable activity with all sorts of different expectations from those around them to cater to them. 

I am not saying that this is wrong, but I am suggesting that if you go down that trail, make it your choice, and count the cost.

I encourage all of us to prayerfully consider the activities, choices, and sacrifices that we are making in light of what we consider to be important and lasting.  The one who asks, “who do you say that I am?” is also the one who said, “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matt. 11:29 Praise God!  What a wonderful promise from Our Redeemer!  And He has been delivering on this promise throughout the generations for those who abide in Him.

Peace to you in Christ,

Pastor Steve Lundblom