After the disciples had been following Jesus for a while, he asked them, “Who do the people say I am?” The disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus pointedly asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27-29)
No more hiding in the crowd; Jesus was asking the disciples, personally and individually, “Who am I to you? Matthew quotes Peter as saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
The same question that Jesus asked of the disciples, he asks of us, “Who do you say I am?”
Like Peter, are willing to say with the same depth of conviction that Jesus is the son of the living God who became one of us, and sacrificed his life for us to save us from our sins?
Interestingly, Jesus goes on to define what is required of us to fully acknowledge that he is the Son of God. He says we must pick up our daily cross, love as he loves and suffer as he suffered. He says we need to die to self and give up our will for his in all things. The following story illustrates an initial failure of this standard followed by the action of God’s grace in redeeming the outcome.
After working for a large international company for over 30 years, Jim (not his real name) sensed it was time to do something different with his life. After several months of prayer and discernment, he accepted an opportunity to work full-time in a Christian ministry.
He informed his boss and set a date for his retirement. A couple of months before the scheduled date, the company announced that it was merging with another company. In order to encourage employees to stay on until the merger was completed, a retention bonus was offered to various employees, including Jim.
As a result, Jim decided to postpone his retirement and the date he would start working for the ministry. After all, he reasoned, it was estimated to be only six months, and the retention bonus would provide an additional cushion for his retirement account.
A couple of months later Jim was flying home on a business trip, looking out the window at an interesting cloud formation, thinking about the future. All of sudden he felt like the Lord was saying: “So, you tell me you want to work for me in ministry. I arrange an opportunity, and now you put me off for some extra money!” Jim said, “It was like a slap in the face. What had I done!”
The next day Jim told his boss that he had made a mistake. He had made a commitment to begin working for a Christian ministry and needed to keep that commitment. He would not stay on until the merger was completed. He would forgo the retention bonus. As it turned out, the merger took almost two years to complete.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)