Who Do You Say You Are?

Dr. Sangyil Park, Associate Professor of Preaching

This semester, our Middler Class has a very unique situation; we have only 3 students while there are 4 professors to teach that class. Since it is a required course, we cannot cancel it.  

Speaking of this, however, I found an interesting story. Dr. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, an Indian-American astrophysicist, was a professor at the University of Chicago. In 1947, he was scheduled to teach an advanced seminar in astrophysics. At the time he was living in Wisconsin, working at a nearby research center. What happened was that he found out that only two students had registered for his class. The school administration advised the professor to cancel the seminar. He, however, felt an obligation to respond to the call of the two students. So he made the more than 100-mile round trip every day, all winter long. Ten years later, those two students, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, both won the Nobel Prize for physics. And in 1983, so did Dr. Chandrasekhar.

Good students, of course, come from good teachers. But this particular story tells us that only when the students are honorable, may the teacher be honored. The good disciples make their teacher look good.  

The entire gospel of Mark is about discipleship—how we as the disciples of Jesus Christ should live. And I believe that today’s text sets the tone of Mark’s Gospel. This is where Jesus makes sure that his students understand what it means to be his followers. Unlike other Gospels, Mark really portrays Jesus as a human being; he was a man of character, a perfect human being with love and compassion for others. More importantly, he was a great teacher. And the teacher wants his students to behave in a way that people know who they belong to: Him. That way God is honored by their living.

Now, as Jesus and His disciples make their way through the valleys and hills of northern Israel, Jesus turns to His students and gives them this somewhat strange quiz, “Who do people say I am?” Well, the answer was not that hard. They easily replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” But Jesus comes right back to them saying, “Who do you say I am?”

“Who Is Jesus?” “Who is the man we call Jesus of Nazareth?” This is the question people have been asking for the past 2000 years! Who is Jesus? Many people go to seminary to have this question answered; many people wrote books and articles because they have burning desires for this important question. “Who is this guy?” “Who do you think I am?

Poor Peter… he was bold enough to raise his hand to answer that question. But, 15 seconds later, he ended up being called “Satan”

One thing is clear: at least in Mark’s Gospel, they are not sure about the identity of Jesus; not only Peter, but all the disciples were confused. But don’t say that it was only those fishermen who were with Jesus 2000 years ago. There are many of us who are confused even NOW. We all have our own ideas about God and many different answers to Jesus’ question. Conservatives have theirs; liberals have theirs too; and they do not even talk to one another.

Many of us know what has been happening on in the Middle East and Africa for the past few days. People have been killed in protests over the anti-Islamic video that led to a deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.

I had a chance to see the video and read some of the comments people made regarding the video. As I was reading through some of those comments, I was just shocked; the world is totally divided into two. There are so many negative comments about Americans; there were so many negative words that were exchanged between Christians and Muslims. Thinking about all these and today’s scripture lesson, what would Jesus say to those who say they are Christians and put all those negative comments out there? Jesus would say to us, “Who do you think you are?”

Loving Christ does not mean hating people of other faiths. Loving and following Christ means we take the cross; we may not be able to take the cross Jesus took literally; but we can show our compassion and love toward others no matter what.

St. Paul says “Live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” He wants us to bring honor to His name.

Self-denial is at the heart of Christian discipleship. John Calvin, in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, says, “We are not our own; therefore neither our reason nor our will should predominate in our deliberations and actions. On the contrary, we are God’s; therefore let his wisdom and will preside in all our actions.”

Jesus asks us: “Who Do You Say You Are?”

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