Ignore Everybody

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Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nancee_art/3771144583/">Heeding the Muses</a>

Mark 6:14-16

By now Jesus had become so well known that King Herod heard of him. Some folks had begun spreading the rumor that John, the Dunker, had been raised from the dead, and that was why Jesus could do all these miraculous things. Other folk were saying he was Elijah. Still others were saying he was like the great truth-tellers of ancient history. Herod, though, who had beheaded John, resolved that Jesus was John back from the dead.

When people start talking about you, they’ll come up with all kinds of stories. Especially when you’re doing something that really is great, people will start to explain your work away. They’ll make up reasons to believe it’s not really you.

With Jesus, they couldn’t accept that he was his own person. He had to be somebody else. It wasn’t that Jesus was simply doing great things because he was Jesus. It had to be that he was a supernatural phenomenon. He got his powers from the underworld. He’s some kind of ghost, back from the dead. (Of course, some people still think this.) He can’t be making powerful changes in people’s lives because he’s Jesus, they think, but he must be some manifestation of the mythological Elijah, or one of those other great people from the past. They just couldn’t accept that Jesus was simply Jesus.

It’s not just Jesus, though. If you’re doing great stuff, people will make up reasons why it’s not really you. You were just in the right place at the right time. You got lucky. You were born with a silver spoon. You managed to find some kind of shortcut to success, or took advantage of something nobody else knew about. Like Herod, their reasons for thinking these things may be their own guilty conscience. In the majority of cases, you just don’t know where the rumors come from, or why.

It’s part of doing great work. In spite of being misunderstood, Jesus keeps on doing it. Every day. Changing lives. Restoring people to wholeness. Confronting oppression. Bringing those who had fallen through the cracks back into the web of humanity. Regardless of what everyone else was saying.

A few years ago, cartoonist Hugh MacLeod published a little book with the title, Ignore Everybody. It was good advice.

It’s part of doing great work. Jesus did it. You can, too.

Who Do You Say that You Are?

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Photo credit: KlobeTime

Mark 8:27-30

Jesus took his students with him to Caesarea Philippi. As they were traveling, he asked them, “Who are people saying I am?”

They said, “Some say you’re John the dunker. Others say you’re Elijah. Others say you’re another truth-teller.”

He asked them, “What do you have to say about me?”

Peter said, “You are the anointed one.”

And so Jesus told them not to tell anyone about him.

It’s natural to want to know what people are saying about you. But, when you ask them, you might not like the answers they give you. Chances are, they won’t match what you think of yourself and, deep down, hope they see in you, too. And what “they” will say will likely reveal more about who they are than who you are.

In this short exchange, there are four answers to the question. Each of them reflects an understanding filtered through the different needs folks have for Jesus to fill. Some want a firebrand preacher. Others want a return to the good old days. Others want someone who will be the new charismatic guru. Peter (and the other students) have staked their fortunes on someone they think is the new King David, on his way to restoring the glorious theocracy of a thousand years before.

Each of these answers says more about those who give them than they say about Jesus. None of them, apparently, is what Jesus wanted to be said about him, because he tells them, “Just don’t tell anyone about me.” Jesus is the only one who really knows who he is. And that self knowledge was given to him one day back at the Jordan River. Any answer other than that one is a misrepresentation. And Jesus, like any of us, would rather not be misrepresented.

The problem for us when people tell us who they say that we are, is that we tend to believe them. And we end up trying to be who they tell us we are instead of being who we know we are. Or we give up pursuing what, deep down, we know is our calling. What we often fail to recognize is that when we give up our self-determination (because “it’s easier to just get along” with what others think we ought to be or think or do), we misrepresent ourselves.

Who do you say that you are?