Who do you say I am?

Taken from a Red Rock News Article (2/23/24)
Rev. Dona Johnson | Feb 25, 2024

      In the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, his opposition was closing in and the controversy surrounding him was heating up (Mark 8:27-38). All sorts of rumors were spreading and fueling accusations against him within the Jewish inner circle. For anyone in leadership trying to affect change in a corporate or religious culture knows all too well the resistance and pushback that can occur with those who are threatened by the change. Allies and alliances are like shifting sand. And it is hard to know where people are and who you can trust.   

      In this contentious environment, Jesus turns to those closest to him, his own disciples and asks. “Who do you say that I am?” In the company of each other, Peter speaks for the twelve and responds, “You are the Christ.” Peter speaks out with a clear declaration that Jesus is the “the anointed one by God. The one divinely elected and appointed by God. Peter, whom Jesus set apart in Mark 3:16 to play a decisive role in building up the people of God, now speaks his confession of faith. When Jesus selects the twelve, He makes a core unit of teachers and representatives that will soon become the nexus of the church. It means more than a new calling—it means a new identity.

      Jesus conveys to the disciples that he must suffer, be rejected by his own people—the elders, chief priests and scribes and then be killed and raised three days later. Peter could not handle this horrific news. So out of fear of losing Jesus, he rebuked him. Jesus retorted back to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! Peter’s inability to accept Jesus’ suffering and death is a refusal to accept the will of God. Jesus continues with a prophetic announcement and warning: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”(Mark 8:35). To lose one’s soul can be an irrevocable loss. And yet so many of us sell out our souls daily for pleasures that are short-lived. Addictions will eventually kill us. The insatiable desire to acquire more money and power can temp us to run over and compete against others at the expense of those relationships. And the desire to seek the ways and gratifications of this world can put our faith life on the back burner and leave us in a spiritual desert. 

      There are big moral moments in our lives, times in which we must choose between allegiance to Jesus, the moral creed we profess and moral compass that guides our lives and our need for more money, power and popularity. In those moments, we should take on the spiritual struggle to make sure we don’t sell out our souls for the temporary pleasures and gains of the world. But every day we also recognize that our souls — our sense of what it means to be human beings — are being shaped day-to-day by the same systems of power and privilege we say we resist and have no part of. 

      Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” still echoes to this day generations later. We gain our lives when we give ourselves to others, when we go the extra mile to love our neighbor, to love our enemy. We gain the joy of living when we put the needs and suffering of other people in front of our own comforts, needs and desires. We gain life when we die to self and confess the name of Jesus courageously without fear or embarrassment. Life is gained in the giving of life to others. 


Prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, who do we say you are? Help us to life our lives in full integrity before you and others—to once and for all lose the ways of this world that when asked we will take up our cross for you. Amen.