Jesus’ disciples have worked through quite a cram session of divine discoveries over the past months. Lame people are leaping, party animals are praying, Pharisees are fuming, evil spirits are sputtering, and even a few formerly dead folk are sitting up to pay attention. After all these experiences, Jesus must be wondering: did anything stick for my students?
Thus in the middle of a session on prayer, Jesus unexpectedly passes out a pop quiz. It seems easy enough—just two short questions. (Luke 9:18-27)
Question #1: According to popular opinion, who am I?
The disciples look up to think for a moment, then put their heads down and start writing.
“A John the Baptist kind-of-guy” jots one disciple.
“A man of grand miracles like good ol’ Elijah” scribbles another.
“A prolific prophet from our prestigious past” offers one particularly articulate pupil.
Their answers all aligned quite nicely. The public continuously marveled at the astonishing array of miracles Jesus invoked while broadcasting God’s message to the masses. Jesus’ mastery clearly earned him enshrinement amongst the historically elite Prophetic Fall of Fame.
On to the next question.
Question #2: Who I am to you?
The disciples scrunch their faces as they consider the possible answers. After all the time logged with Jesus and all the energy he had poured back into them, they most certainly did not want to get this one wrong.
Seems that only Peter had the courage to put down his best guess.
“The Messiah.” he cautiously writes.
Folding his quiz in half, he hands it back to Jesus and waits.
Jesus opens Peter’s paper to review his responses. After a slight pause, the teacher looks up to offer an affirming nod to his most out-going student. Peter lets out a sigh of relief, tilts back his chin, and opens up a wry smile laden with a not-so-subtle hint of personal superiority.
Jesus quickly tears up the paper and throws it away. Peter’s brow furrows as the disciples look around at each other.
Why not publically promote this disciple’s insightful answer?
Throughout Israel’s tumultuous history, many legendary prophets had graced their land. A prophet served a truly high and holy calling—to speak for God during a specific season. Yet “The Messiah” fit an entirely different category. There were lots of prophets, but only one Messiah. This much anticipated “Anointed One” would build an enduring kingdom of God-like power and authority.
The disciples struggled with all this. They fancied themselves as future national administrators—perched together with Jesus on his platform of lofty political aspirations. Jesus knew differently. A dramatic military conquest wouldn’t ignite his reign. Rather, his inauguration would commence high on a cruel cross.
The disciples aced the first quiz, but failed the next few exams. They anticipated achieving greater power and control. Jesus led them toward greater service and sacrifice.
Just like the disciples, it’s easy to ace Jesus’ quiz and fail his exams. Many days I long for Jesus’ power to sweep into my life and conquer any enemy that threatens my personal effectiveness. I want Jesus to make me more impressive. Yet he’s not that kind of Messiah. He’s not leading me towards greater notoriety—but rather toward greater humility. Jesus offers his impressive power—the power to accept his joy and experience his grace each battle-tested day.
I pray we’ll experience Jesus’ astonishing strength through all the tests we might be yet to take.
This week’s Scripture readings (Links to Scripture provided via Bible Gateway)
- Luke 9:1-9: Jesus pushes his disciples into the deep end of the ministry pool by sending them on a no-expense-paid missions trip. This would obviously accentuate their need to depend completely on God’s provision—a direct challenge to the way we spend most of our daily lives.
- Luke 9:10-17: One of Jesus’ most famous miracles—the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus expresses a seemingly limitless compassion for crowds of people . . . and always enjoys getting his followers involved when pulling off his epic miracles.
- Luke 9:18-27: Peter’s great confession . . . and Jesus’ call to follow. The invitation to “pick up our cross daily” doesn’t sound very appealing on the surface, until you recognize that many people try to build themselves a perfect life—only to discover that it’s truly empty. Following Jesus isn’t easy, but it does indeed offer the fullest life possible.
- Luke 9:28-36: You might start to notice a pattern here—when Jesus prays, big things happen. God’s voice is heard again—for the first time since Jesus’ baptism. While God the Father spoke directly to Jesus at his baptism, this time he seems to be directing his comments toward Jesus’ disciples (and thus to us, too).
- Luke 9:37-43: No mountaintop experience lasts forever. Jesus’ frustrated expression “you unbelieving and perverse generation” seems likely to be directed at his disciples. The story ends well, however, as everyone involved gets both inspiration and relief from God’s powerful intervention.
- Luke 9:43-56: Jesus’ great power keeps inflating the egos of his disciples—not the intended result. They have a bent towards wanting to create their own private club as power players. Jesus keeps trying (not very successfully to this point) to redirect their energies towards serving and encouraging others.
AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR . . .
I hope you’re enjoying our journey through the life of Jesus. However, we’re going to make an epic shift next week—heading all the way back to the beginning pages of the Bible. enCompass Church is embarking on a six-week excursion through the Old Testament. Thus, our blog and Scripture readings will support this cause. As we’re rounding the corner towards Easter season in mid-March, we’ll jump back into the life and times of Jesus. Since Jesus seemed to really like the Old Testament, I hope you’ll enjoy the journey of these next weeks, too.