Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. Mark 8:31-32 [27-38]
As George Washington Carver put it, he once asked, “Lord, what is the universe?” The Lord answered; “George, the universe is just too big for you to understand. Suppose you let Me take care of the universe.” Humbled, the Negro scientist asked, “Lord, if the universe is too much for me to understand, then what is a peanut?”
The Lord replied, “Now, George, you have something your size. A peanut you can understand. Now, go to work on the peanut – and I will help you.”
For remainder of his life this man worked miracles – with peanuts! He was responsible for bringing to us a vast assortment of uses for the peanut, peanut butter and peanut oil to just name two.
Speakers Book of Illustrative Stories (Maxwell Droke)
A visitor passing through an English war factory during World War II was startled to see at a lathe a man who bore a striking resemblance to King George. Greater was his astonishment to learn that it was the king! Each day, after his official duties were over, the King of England took his place in the factory and worked with his people.
Henry F. Pollock
“Who am I?” – that’s a perennial question that has come down through the ages. The young teen asks that question as he must begin to make decisions that will affect his future – Who am I in regard to a career? Who am I in regard to possible marriage? Who am I in regard to drinking and drugs? Who am I really on the inside?
It is the same question asked in middle age, as one stands on the edge of profound changes of life and family. The goals and dreams, the indestructibility of youth, and so much more have been radically altered. Certain hopes will never materialize, certain plans will never be fulfilled. “Who am I really?” becomes an issue with some – to an extreme for a few who foolishly try to recapture a long gone youth. For others it is a filled with despair, and aimlessness. For some it is a radical change of goals and expectations – but especially a change in the value and the importance of life and of the people around oneself.
It is a question wondered about by an elderly person, as he or she faces more and more the coming standing before the Lord his and her Creator. “Who am I – when you have added up all my life – just who am I really?”
“Who am I?” – the King of England’s answer was interesting: He not only was the most valuable person in the kingdom politically, but he was more than that. He was even more valuable because he had two hands and strong back to help his people where they needed it, during a most trying time.
“Who am I?” To the scientist, George Washington Carver, it wasn’t someone who developed marvelous universal theories and complex mathematical formulas. He simply wanted to help the people of the South to rebuild their economy after the devastation of the United States’ Civil War, and in so doing discovered useful and far-reaching uses for the peanut.
“Who am I?” asked an itinerant preacher on the shore of the Mediterranean. It was not a question of self-doubt and confusion, but a question to expose the budding faith of His disciples. It was meant to force them into deciding just how they would think of Jesus. Was He “just another one” – another great prophet, another great teacher, another great leader? Or was He more?
And despite what you may sometimes think of Peter, it is he who was willing to take the plunge, to daringly say words that aren’t really easy to say. The Messiah had been waited for for thousands of years, not just since Moses, or Abraham, but since Adam. Of all the people who had lived, would He show up in your lifetime? Would this One actually be the One Who is the Son of the Most High God – the One I must turn my life over to, the One I have left all in order to follow, the One Who speaks the most powerful and the most final Truth in the universe – the most powerful and most final Truth in MY life.
Jesus had no misgivings about Who He was. He knew the purpose, the method, and the time in which all He was would reach its climax in His mission on earth. He was God the Son, come into flesh and blood, Who would give His own life, absorb in His own Body the terrible wrath and hatred of God against the rebellion of sin and its horrible destruction of what God had created in and for man.
Jesus knew Who He was, the One Who would die absolutely friendless between man and God, yet Who would conquer in His dying and give life to humans. And He would beat death by rising, and reassuming His power and authority over the whole universe.
Who am I? Perhaps you have asked that of yourself lately, as you perhaps are going through hard times, along with other stresses that can make you double-think just who you are and what your life is all about. The moral turmoil that comes at us every day, the values and standards that are challenged in the media constantly, make you wonder just who you are. The politics that regard you as incidental compared to the nebulous “good for the country,” the science which tells you you are an insignificant and expendable cog in the universe, makes you ask just who you are.
“Who are you?” is the question asked by the lessons today. Are you really a Christian? Or do you simply go through the motions and proper lip-service but really have nothing of substance? Are you really a Christian? Or are you one whose faith is dead because it is never used in real life, because it is never challenged and stretched to its limits, because you cannot look over a day and say, “I did this, because my faith demanded it of me!”?
Are you really a Christian? Or are you one who has never bothered with denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus; that your faith has basically been to accumulate knowledge, to look for what pleases yourself, but not to risk what can be at times most unpleasant and downright humbling for the sake of the Lord?
There in an interesting connection between George Washington Carver, the King of England, and Jesus: each saw himself as a servant. Who am I? I am a servant of my fellow southerners, and I will spend my life helping them recover economically after the calamity of a civil war. Who am I? I am a servant of fellow British, as we stand against tyranny and invasion. Who am I? I am a servant of mankind, as I give my life as a Ransom for the world.
So who are you – do you know? First, you are God’s child – what a most marvelous thing to be! The universe’s God, its Creator and Ruler, is your Father! Think of the vastness of the universe and how insignificant you are by comparison. Yet God would reach down through all the universe to find you, to make you His own child by adoption through Holy Baptism. That should stagger your mind!
Perhaps you can capture David’s sense of awe and amazement when he says in Psalm 8[:4-5]:
What is man, that You would be so mindful of him? or the son of man, that You would visit him? You made him a little lower than the angels, and yet have crowned him with Glory and honor!
And just think of what we know now that David never CLEARLY saw! The book of Hebrews points out how this applies to Jesus – Jesus was made a little lower than the angels and is now crowned with Glory and honor. Jesus never became an angel, He never became a horse, and as far as we know, He never became a Martian. But God the Son became a HUMAN, a man, the Son of Man. This little insignificant race in the vastness of universe – GOD has reached down to become one of us, reached down so that He could look at you on the level eye-to-eye.
And then you were made a child of God, raising you up to the same personal regard and Love as God the Son has, thereby crowning you with indescribable Glory and honor.. No, you will never be a god, yet you stand on equal footing with Jesus before the Father – co-heirs is what St Paul called us. Insignificant us in this corner of the universe so loved and listened to just as much and just as readily as the Father would listen to God the Son! Doesn’t that fill your mind with wonder and bewilderment?
You also are the Body of Christ – what a most marvelous thing to be! Paul says that Jesus takes care of you, just as He would care for His own Body, because you really are the Body of Christ. The Church has always understood this, from the Book of Acts on down, that WE are the continuing incarnation of Jesus, God the Son, in this world. We are His Body – the qualities, life and all the rest of Jesus are being pumped through you just as much as your lifeblood is being pumped through your arm or leg. That’s the significance of Holy Communion, because here in the bread and wine is the reality of Jesus’ Body and Blood coursing through your veins.
And thirdly, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit – what a most marvelous thing to be! God Himself has made His home in YOU. Again the words of the Psalmist echo in our ears, “yet You have crowned us with Glory and honor”. How unworthy we are, yet how wonderful it is! God has stepped in to make Himself a very present Help in our lives! How confident He is in us that He would make us the location of presence in this world.
But there is one last thing that you and I are: just as importantly, we also are servants – like my heavenly Father serves His Creation, like Jesus my Head serves humanity’s need and shepherds His People, like the Holy Spirit at the center of my heart supplying my daily needs in order to be God’s person in this world – like George Washington Carver giving the southern US states the ability to survive, like the king of England leading his nation and working by their side. God has lifted us so high, so that now we too can go and truly follow Jesus in servanthood and in bringing Good News to people who so desperately need to hear and see it in us.
As we lay ourselves, our lives, our sins, and our faith at the feet of Jesus, and as Jesus responds by giving to each one of us the greatest eternal, as well as daily, blessings there could ever be, discover again just who you really are, but then also discover who God has made you to be to those all around you, among His People and to the world.