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. Mark 8, verses 23-30.
Jesus spent a lot of His time testing His disciples. Brace yourselves because I’m going to say it: part of me thinks that’s annoying. Yes, it’s annoying and, yes, I think it’s ok and not even sinful to say that I feel annoyed by something the Son of God said. Annoyance is an emotion that tells us there is something we don’t like; more often, it’s something we don’t want to accept or acknowledge. I would feel more than a little annoyed if someone I loved kept testing me; I might, in fact, start to question that love. It would hurt, like I wasn’t trusted.
But it’s not for lack of trust that God tested these 12 men. Just yesterday I was reading about Abraham and Issac, how God (that same Jesus) tested Abraham by asking him to slit his son’s throat. Would you or I be as trusting as Abraham was? In an era where we are inculcated at all levels to trust our feelings, I think not. Yet we also know that we live in a world that constantly tests us in so many ways. Do you set up project controls to gauge the performance of others? Do you check and re-check your calculations when you make a budget or file your taxes? Do you give kids extra responsibility to see how they handle it? You know that not all these tests are done out of insecurity or doubt. More often, we do them in love.
Perhaps, then, Jesus posed this test to the Disciples out of love as well. Instead of an annoyance, perhaps He said it to get them to admit to themselves things they had been considering but maybe had not coalesced into a single concept. I think He did it to help them see the obvious truth of who He was proving Himself to be…and then to prepare them for the hard days ahead when they finally understood what that really meant.
Perhaps, too, you need to ask yourself the question Jesus asked Peter: “Who do you say I am?” When you get fired from your job; when you call your wife early in the morning and she already seems angry at you for reasons you don’t know; when you get an unexpected windfall; when you are promoted; when your parents die, who do you say Jesus is? Is He the loving Lord, Messiah, friend, Trinity and Savior? Is He real or a fable? Is Jesus just another guy who said and did nice, maybe even great, things but still couldn’t get you out of whatever trouble or success is plaguing you? Who do you really, really believe Jesus is?
That’s the toughest test we will ever take, and we take it daily. Even when we doubt, those doubts are a test; that kind are the worst of all. Yet we have to remember that Jesus does it out of love, to build us up and constantly prepare us as well, in this case for the eternity up ahead. That matters most of all.
Lord, in times of test, I cling to You.
Read Mark 8, verses 31-33.