October 16, 2021

Our Responses to Jesus’ Identity 12-09-2021

12th September 2021 Pentecost 16 (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
Our Responses to Jesus’ Identity
(Scripture Reading: James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38)
By Heeyoung Lim

If the relationship develops, there are other insights to be gained. With further share and experience between relationships, an acquaintance may turn into a friend and a friend may become a life companion. But there are limits to how much we can know about another person. In everyone there are secrets and surprises of the heart and deed that will not be revealed or that cannot be discerned. In relationships between Jesus and disciples, the disciples’ knowledge of Jesus was growing and their understanding becoming greater.
Jesus asks His disciples what they have heard about Him. Then Jesus questions the disciples about His identity. “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” It seems that when Peter calls Jesus the Christ, he has the right title but the wrong understanding of what the title means for Jesus. When Jesus declares that he is going to suffer and be rejected and be killed, Peter does not want to hear about a suffering Messiah. He seems to be looking for a Messiah who will establish God’s kingdom with authority and power, and who will bring His followers glory and reward. Popular messianic hopes of that day awaited a militant character who would bring deliverance to the nation and freedom from Rome.
Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone about this event. He knew the disciples did not have a full understanding of who the Messiah was or what he would suffer. (30) When Jesus spoke about his upcoming passion, death, and resurrection for the first time, Peter told Him to stop talking like that.
However, Jesus told and corrected Peter, “Get away from me, you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (33) Peter was thinking like everyone else. Jesus led Peter to be reconnected to discipleship by the correction. In Christ God enables us to find a way that is different from the way of the world, leads us to discern God’s will in our lives, and invites us to live by God’s wisdom that are not embodied in the normal course of human life.
James 3:1-12 speaks of the power of the tongue for ill or good. The risks associated with the responsibility of speaking is found in Peter’s attempt to stop Jesus. The tongue is a small organ, but it can control and influence major events in life. Those who misuse the tongue receive God’s condemnation. (James 3:1) James warns against the chaos our tongue can cause. Verse 10 highlights the inconsistency of one mouth between praising and cursing. People are inconsistent if they bless God and then curse those made in God’s likeness at the same time. When they curse those whom, God has made, they are effectively cursing God. God tells us that such a double standard is outrageous, and this should not be.
We have lots of opportunities to think about self-awareness, the degree about caution of speaking, and the possibility to cultivate of wisdom in our faith journey. Colossians 4:6 provides a conclusion about speech, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
In seeking to control our tongues we must admit to God our weakness, seek his help, and place relentless guard on our tongues. God’s grace can enable us to use our tongues and our words for blessing and encouraging others. (11) Fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom. God wants His people to control their tongues and to display true wisdom. By nature, the tongue could serve as a divisive instrument of evil, by grace, the tongue can become an instrument of positive blessing.
While Peter was not possessed by Satan, he was temporarily used as an instrument of Satan in this situation, even though he was the one who confessed Jesus as the Messiah. Because we are children of God who believe in Jesus, we do not belong to Satan, but we can be affected by it temporarily when we fall into temptation. May we always be awake in the Lord and follow Jesus.
Jesus wants us to interest in the things of God and He leads us to accept His mission and demands for discipleship. In this passage, Jesus tells the listeners, what it means to be a true disciple of His. He tells everyone about the cost of being a follower of His.
Jesus said to His disciples and the crowd, “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.” (34-35) The phrase “deny himself” implies that we must seek God’s will just like Jesus and submit our will to His. Take up his cross might have been an offensive statement to the listeners. Today’s text tells us that Jesus’ disciples are to take risks in serving, giving, and sacrificing for people and the world in the perspective of God’s wisdom which can be expressed as risky wisdom.
By denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Jesus, a disciple acknowledges that he/she is submitting to Jesus’ authority. Taking up our cross is about a willingness to pay the price of following Jesus and living out the gospel. When people lose their lives by taking up the cross, they find life in Christ. Christian growth is a process. May we, Jesus’ disciples, follow Jesus through denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and submitting to Jesus’ authority in our lives.
We can answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” We confess Him Christ, Messiah, Lord, Saviour, Master, Friend, Son of God, etc. Our experience of Jesus is all precious, but it is limited because we have experienced some, not all. Jesus wants us to set our mind on divine things and respond to Jesus. Our responses to Jesus’ identity are not perfect, but we can follow Jesus by seeking God’s will in our lives and utilize our memory of how Jesus has worked in the past to make it through our tough times.
We are in the chaos between isolation and connection, silence and too much talk, inclusiveness and exclusiveness, and openness and closeness. However, I believe God’s word and our words of encouragement will build us up and send us back to our life with renewed enthusiasm and a tongue committed to God can be used as a positive tool for building hope and strength in others.
God’s wisdom often calls us to turn and follow unexpected and risky paths. Jesus invites us to speak, encourage, and bless by grace. I hope our culture of speaking will be transformed in God’s hands. We live between great confessions and shameful ones. All our words should be illuminated by the word of the Lord and embodied through practical action. May we walk right paths and live by the gospel trusting and hoping in God’s presence. May we deny ourselves daily and submit to Christ’s authority over us. I pray we confess who Jesus is with depth of understanding of Him and share warm blessings and graceful words each other in the love of God.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)