Who Do You Say That I Am?
Who do people say Jesus was/is? At our study session, we went around the room with our personal answers. In the list were Almighty, Redeemer, Friend, Teacher.
And how did Jesus respond to their concerns about whether they would inherit eternal life?
These questions, found in three gospels, were explored with Pastor Jim's facilitation of our discussion last Wednesday night, March 15, part two of the Lenten Series on The Questions of Jesus: Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life’s Great Answers, based on the book by John Dear. We looked at Mark 8:27-38, Matthew 19:16-30, and Luke 18:18-30.
In each story, Jesus addressed the need to “give up “ or “deny yourself” things that seem obvious, natural, and wise to want to keep secure – i.e. comfort, money, lifestyle, even life itself. Jesus said letting this go was the way for those to “save their lives” and inherit “eternal life”. He said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Did He really mean that?!! Surely not! Were and are rich people still required to give up their possessions, comfort, and money before they could be accepted into the kingdom?! That seems impractically extreme and, therefore, to our minds, seems unnecessary and wrong! Maybe He really did not mean that. Maybe He was just using hyperbole – exaggerated statements, that were not intended to be taken quite so literally. Here is one reference that explains slightly less extreme interpretations about the sewing needle: https://www.gotquestions.org/camel-eye-needle.html.
If Jesus did not actutally mean giving life and riches away to receive eternal life, then, what was He teaching? Maybe He was talking about something more nuanced than a straightforward prescription or formula on what had to be done to secure eternal life and be in the kingdom of God. And what about this talk of Him suffering and dying, and we having to lose our own lives in order to gain our lives (Matthew story)?
Maybe Jesus was talking about people (then and now) relaxing their grip on controlling comfort and ease as the ultimate measure of a good life. Are we willing to rearrange our priorities about what is important, even if that could mean encountering hardship and suffering? Can these undesired experiences be something that pleases God? In the Mark story, Peter started ‘rebuking’ (criticizing, disapproving) Jesus when He talked about Himself suffering and dying. In return, Jesus told Peter to ‘STOP IT’ because Peter’s arguments were causing Jesus, Himself, to become tempted to set His “mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Is, then, the answer to the ultimate abundant, good life – the inherited eternal life – one that does requires thirsting for the things of God rather than man? Regardless of the human cost, will our quench be satisfied when we steer our actions to the divine over and above the human things? I think Jesus struggled with His own priorities of divine vs. human during His 40 days in the Wilderness. Maybe we find our true security and good when we allow the spring of living water – the experiences with the Divine - to flow and slide through our fingers, relax in its comfort and cleansing, without trying to securely grasp it.
Third question in the series is Do You Want to Be Well?
Wednesday, March 22, 6pm, Fellowship
Written by Victoria Sherman