I was thinking about what Jesus means to me as I reflect upon the week that leads up to the resurrection. Jesus was tried by men who hated the very ground He walked upon because they didn’t believe that He was God’s Son or the Messiah they had waited for so long. Jesus was beaten and mocked by the Roman soldiers who laughed at Him and thought he bled like every other man so He couldn’t be a god! Jesus was betrayed by His friends, and this had to have been a painful experience, even though He had predicted it would happen. Jesus was innocent yet the crowd wanted a really bad dude criminal let go as was the custom during Passover rather than freeing Jesus. Jesus endured being spit upon and emotional as well as physical pain and so much more. I can never imagine how He felt carrying the sins of the entire world while on the cross and yet Jesus took all He endured with grace. Jesus is real and I am a fake. I smile and say I am fine when I really want to cry and run away. I pretend that I am important when I am the least important person I know. I talk like I know what I am talking about and yet I don’t really know very much. I hide behind the mask of maturity when I am not really all that mature. I think when we really are honest with ourselves we know that much of our life is fake and we are really good at being a fake. But not Jesus, no, Jesus is real.
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Mark 8:27-33, (New International Version or NIV).
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the intellect that Jesus had and still hang out with mere humans. No wonder Jesus sometimes got frustrated at how slow to understand the disciples could be. I am like those slow-to-understand disciples sometimes too. Jesus was here on a mission and was teaching mostly uneducated men to learn the things they needed to know in order to spread the word and develop the church after Jesus, as a human, was gone from the earth. Many people knew that Jesus was powerful but didn’t really understand who He was or why He came and so He asked His closest disciples who they thought He was. It was Peter who said that He was God’s Son and the Messiah promised by God to the Jewish nation. I am sure that Jesus was glad for Peter’s insight but then Peter blew it! I am so much like Peter, aren’t you? I mean I am feeling so close to Jesus, to God, and then boom! I fall into depression or have a pity party, or become angry at someone or something else the makes me realize that I have sinned. Peter just wanted to be protective of his friend I think, something I would also want to do and you probably would as well. But Jesus addressed Peter as if he was Satan using Satan’s words and that must have been not only shocking but also baffling. Peter just didn’t understand what Jesus had to go through, what the mission really was. So Jesus teaches the disciples something they needed to understand, something we must as well. Take a look.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38, (NIV).
We Christians say that we want to follow Jesus but we need to understand the realness of that decision. Jesus gets real with His disciples and the crowd that had gathered around Him and His message is for us today as well. To follow Jesus is going to cost each person something. We must understand this fundamental message. Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, a saint, a disciple, will cost you your pride, your plans for yourself, your desires, your old way of life. In order to be given salvation from Jesus you will have to give up the world and all the worldly ways. Jesus will do His part and purify your soul but you also have a part to play and that is to allow the purification and to give up the fun of sin. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have joy or happiness but you will be changed, your personality will change, your desires will change, your soul will change. You won’t hang with the old crowd nearly as much because you won’t want to. You won’t be an addict to worldly things because you won’t want to. You won’t find excuses to hide behind anymore because you will recognize an excuse for what it is, a tool of pride and you won’t want to be proud any longer. What you get instead is joy and peace and a reason to live and a hope for a better tomorrow and a way to cope with life’s struggles. You will be changed and no longer a part of the adulterous and sinful generation that Jesus refuses to recognize as His.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:7-18, (NIV).
Jesus is real because He knew why He came to earth, and His Father loves Him because He came willingly in laying down His life to make the way of salvation for you and for me. Jesus is real because He came to bring you and me eternal life and also an abundant life while we live here on earth. Jesus is real because He is our Shepherd and nothing can snatch us away from Him. Nothing! Jesus is real because He is my Shepherd and loves me and I hope He is your Shepherd too.