Sermon Audio

Lent 2, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 25, 2018
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Romans 5:1-11, Mark 8:27-38




Who are you?

How do you find yourself?  How do you discover yourself and find out who you really are?

Some people take a journey of self-discovery.  That could be a long hike or it could be a trip or a pilgrimage.  In college I went to study for a semester in Reutlingen, Germany.  We had classes Monday through Thursday morning but we were free to travel Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening and we had German rail Tramper passes with which we could go anywhere in Germany on the trains.  I would travel with groups from our school and I would travel alone.  I was 19 years old traveling alone in Germany.  No cell phone.  No internet.  It was an adventure and I learned a lot about myself and got to meet lots of other folks.

But for all the time I spent alone there, self-discovery did not begin or end on that trip to Germany.  I believe travel can aid some in self-discovery; or maybe that is just my excuse for taking trips.

Who are you?  What is your identity.  When someone asks, “Who are you?”  What do you tell them about?  Your name?  Your occupation?  Your family?  Who are you?

In our Old Testament reading we see Abram and Sarai having their identities changed. Abram, the 99 year old childless man, will now be Abraham, the father of a multitude of nations.  His wife Sarai, the infertile elderly woman, is now Sarah the mother of nations and kings.

God changed Abram’s identity.  God changed Sarai’s identity.

Who are you?  Who is Jesus?

In our Gospel reading Jesus’ identity is the question.  Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

“John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”  There is confusion as to who Jesus is; the people don’t understand.

So Jesus asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered Him, ‘You are the Christ.”

Peter has spoken for the disciples.  The disciples are clear.  Jesus is the Christ.  That is His identity.  He is the Messiah.  The one promised from of old.

And then Jesus explains to the disciples about the Christ identity, Mark 8:31-32 (ESV) 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. [1]

Jesus is telling the disciples about who He is.  Peter declared for the disciples that Jesus is the Christ.  Jesus is telling them what that Christ identity means.

Who are you?  Who is Jesus?

Even though Jesus is the very one teaching the disciples about the Christ identity Peter thinks he knows better.  Peter rejects this identity for Jesus.  Peter, the disciple, takes Jesus, the Christ, aside and begins to rebuke him.  Peter thinks he knows better than Jesus about the Christ identity.

Suffering, rejection, dying, rising?  What does that have to do with being Christ?  Being Christ is about glory and victory.  Or so Peter thinks.  The devil tried to tempt Jesus to glory in the wilderness and now Peter is continuing the process.  Peter wants a glorious, victorious Christ to drive out the Romans and restore the Jewish nation.  But this is not what it means to be the Christ.  So Jesus responds forcefully, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus is the Christ.  The Christ needs be rejected and suffer and go to the cross and die for the sins of the world.  The Christ needs to rise from the dead and reign as Lord to await the final day of the resurrection of all the dead.  Being the Christ is not just about glory and victory.  It is also about suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.

Who are you?  Who is Jesus?

Your journey of self-discovery can take you to some pretty dark places.  Spending time alone with your thoughts can quickly convince you that you have a lot of room for improvement; you have a lot of ugliness as part of your identity.  The identity that you show to others is not your “true you” identity.  You would be deeply ashamed if the “true you” identity were to come out.  The journey of self-discovery can take you to the realization that you have the capacity for great evil.  For the most part you stifle it; you fight it; but you know that it is there.

Who are you?  Your “true you”, natural-born, identity is that of a selfish wrongdoer who loves sin more than you love others.  That is your identity; or is it?

You can try to lie to yourself and cover up your “true you” identity with a “fool you” identity where you pretend that have got it all together.  You can try to build up a “fool you” identity in which you can take care of whatever problems you encounter. You can defeat any foe that comes you way.  You can do whatever you want to do.  You can take a journey of self-discovery that leads you to believe that you are good enough, smart enough, tough enough.  But that journey of self-discovery is actually a journey of self-deception; a journey to fool others and even fool yourself.

Who are you?  Your “true you”, natural-born, identity is that of a selfish wrongdoer who loves sin more than you love others.  That is your identity; or is it?

Your journey of self-discovery needs to go back to your watery past.  I don’t mean a cruise or a trip to the beach where you ponder some made up idea that you evolved up from ocean critters, but rather your journey of self-discovery needs to take you back to your watery past at the baptismal font.  At the font you were given a new identity.  You were spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God, but God washed that away and changed your identity.  You were called sinner.  God changed that identity.  Now you are called saint.  God gave you a new identity.  No longer are you a selfish wrongdoer who loves sin more than others, now you are a new creation in Christ redeemed to do the good works prepared for you.

This new identity is through God’s amazing grace; through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, but this is not a ticket to endless glory and victory.  Your new, true identity is of one who has been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Your new, true identity is one who has died to sin and been raised to live in Christ.

Who are you?  You are a little Christ; a Christian.  What does this mean?  Remember Jesus’ teaching about the Christ’s identity; suffering, death, and resurrection.  Your identity in Christ is also one of suffering, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells the disciples; including you, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Life as a Christian is not a life of personal glory.  It is a life of humble service and sacrifice.  It is an on-going struggle against besetting sins.

Life as a Christian is not an easy life of victory after victory, it is a life of daily struggle against the evil in the world and a daily struggle to love and serve others who are often difficult to love and serve. In this life there will be suffering, there will be death.  But you have the promise of resurrection.  This life is not all that there is.  The cemetery is not the end.  You will rise from the dead on the last day to live forever with Jesus, the Christ.

Take a daily journey of self-discovery back to the font and to the cross and remember your new identity as a baptized child of God washed clean by the blood of Jesus.  Don’t say, “I was baptized.”  Say, “I am baptized!”

Who are you?  You can answer with confidence.  “I am a new creation in Christ.”  “I still struggle with sin, but I am forgiven.”  “I am a Christian.”  “I have eternal life in Christ.”

Who are you?  “I am baptized into Christ.”  Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001