Week 1, Day 4: Who do you say I am?

READ: MARK 8:27-29

After asking his disciples who everyone else says he is, Jesus asks them who they say he is. This is where the rubber hits the road: when it comes to Jesus, what other people do or think or say is one thing; what we do and say and think about Jesus makes a huge difference in how we live our lives.

In the days of the Roman Empire, people would often greet each other by saying “Caesar is Lord!” It was not simply a salutation, like “Hello” or “Good morning”; it was much more. To say “Caesar is Lord” was to acknowledge reality in that time, affirming the Roman emperor as your master, the one who had power and sovereignty over your life. To say “Caesar is Lord” meant that you were accepting the politics and the economics and the spirituality of the Roman Empire.

It is no accident that the early church began using “Jesus is Lord” as their greeting. It was an acknowledgement of their reality, an affirmation of Jesus as their master, the one who had power and sovereignty over their lives. To say “Jesus is Lord” meant that they were accepting the politics and the economics and the spirituality of Jesus and his kingdom.

This is still the challenge in our day. We find ourselves bombarded by voices that speak not of God’s truth and Jesus’ lordship but rather of a reality in which truth is relative. We are told that Jesus is just a good, inspiring teacher, and we are simply creatures of desire who were made to do what feels good. We are taught that moral authority rests in each person’s individual interpretation of truth. We live in one of the richest countries in human history, in which the gap between the rich and poor grows ever wider, and we are told to trust the free market to solve all problems. We hear loud voices in the political realm that drum up support by playing on people’s fears and setting people against one another, stoking anxiety and anger in order to push through policies of paranoia.

But as Peter told Cornelius, “Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36b). You can be sure the Roman centurion was able to read between the lines: “Jesus is Lord; not Caesar.” Jesus doesn’t just come to rescue us from our sins; he came to rescue us into life with God, life under the lordship of God, life submitted to the God who knows us best and who knows what’s best for us.

For Peter to reply to Jesus, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29), was to acknowledge Jesus as the chosen one of God, one worth listening to and submitting to, one worth following and learning from. In the Message paraphrase, a contemporary version of the Bible, the author Eugene Peterson uses the word “Master” instead of “Lord,” when referring to Jesus.

Our first reaction may be to say, “I don’t want a master; that sounds so oppressive!” But if you think about it, something is our master — it may even be something we named in response to the question, “What do you want?” Something drives us, compels us, motivates our decisions. As Renita J. Weems puts it, “We are wired for worship, so we are going to worship something”, and that worship will shape how we live. Or, in the words of Bob Dylan, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody!” The question is, where does service to that master end up? Where does that path lead?

Jesus will not force you to follow him or coerce you into listening to him or twist your arm into trusting him — that is not his way. His way is the way of love, which allows us to choose, to decide, to commit, to answer the question however we will: “Who do you say I am?”

REFLECT & RESPOND

  • Head: What are some things people say are “Lord”—things people let define their existence—whether with their words or with their actions?

  • Heart: How would you answer if Jesus were to ask you, “Who do you say I am?”

  • Hands: Is there anything in your life that you (or others) would say you’re addicted to? Coffee, chocolate, snacking? Social media, technology, online distractions? Hard substances, like drugs, alcohol, or pornography? Pick one and try to go a whole day or two without it. Take note of how hard it is and what difference it makes.

PRAY

Ask Jesus to show you, over the coming weeks, who he is.

To say “Jesus is Lord” is

to accept the politics and

economics and spirituality

of Jesus and his kingdom.

© 2020 by Justin B. Fung

Christ City Church, Washington, D.C.