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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 8:27–38

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (NRSV)

Have you ever been asked a question that stuck with you? Or gnawed at you? That just wouldn’t go away?

When I was a relatively new pastor, a pastor from another church came to officiate at a memorial service. Afterwards, our senior pastor noted that there had been nothing much in the service that had referenced Jesus. Not only had I not noticed, but I had thought the service was just fine.

We all know when the name of Jesus is used in a way that seems artificial or for the sake of proving something. I had never wanted to do that in my ministry, and so the senior pastor’s observation gnawed at me. I think it must have been the same with Peter. Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” I would guess that Jesus’ question to Peter gnawed at him, too, or at least caught him off guard.

It’s important for us, as followers of Jesus, to figure out who Jesus is in our lives, to be able to talk about why we have chosen to follow him. Peter’s answer was quick. “Why, of course, you are the Messiah.” He thought that was the expected answer. But as the conversation proceeded, it became clear that Peter didn’t really understand what that meant. Peter had to think a little more deeply and get to a more clear understanding of who Jesus was for him.

After the senior pastor’s observation made so many years ago, I had to think a little more deeply too. Who was Jesus for me? What does it mean that I have chosen to follow him? How can I talk about him in a way that seems authentic?

Who do you say that Jesus is?

Fairest Lord Jesus, thank you for your patience with us, for your steady and sure revealing of yourself to us. Help us answer the question “Who do you say that I am?” And when it becomes hard, give us courage to stick with it. Finally, thank you for those conversations and questions that irritate us, because they hold so much potential. In your name we pray. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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