The Event #2
1st Sunday of Lent
I think the original CSI’s choice of “Who Are You” by the Who singlehandedly boosted the Who’s career when it first came out. It was one of the reasons they were asked to perform at the SuperBowl a couple of years ago, which wasn’t the greatest performance of all. All it really did for most of us is make us feel old because, as teenagers, we grew up listening to their music.
But the question they ask in that song is very important for today because that’s the question people were asking both John the Baptist and Jesus, “Three Years Before the Event. “Who Are You?”
Nearly every crime drama and every murder mystery is about Identity. They are all about identifying the perpetrator or perpetrators. Televison’s Criminal Minds, Bones, CSI, NCIS and the like all deal with trying to discover the identities of both victims and perpetrators. The original CSI and especially Bones focus on discovering those identities.
Our identities are very important. We build our lives around our identity. Sometimes we are defined by our identity. Our parents warned us about hanging out with certain people because it could ruin our identity. Identity theft is growing concern. Most of know at least one person whose identity has been stolen or compromised by the use of their credit card info.
Some of the best stories either in novel or movie form deal with “Identities.” The Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series is all about Jason Bourne trying to find out who he is. The first book is even titled The Bourne Identity. The Sci-Fi flick “The 5th Element” is all about trying to find out the identity of the giant mass heading toward earth and trying to find out the true identity and purpose of LeeLoo, who turns out to be “The Fifth Element” and a savior of sorts.
Nearly every Superhero has a secret Identity so they can live normal everyday lives like the rest of us. Superman is Clark Kent. Batman is Bruce Wayne. Spiderman is Peter Parker. The Hulk is Bruce Banner. Wonder woman is Diana Prince. And the list goes on.
I. WHO ARE YOU?:
A. Who Are You? That was the question on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s minds when they saw and heard both John and Jesus. For years they had been waiting for the Messiah to come and set them free. For years they prayed and hoped and wondered if their prayers were being heard and if they would ever be answered. So, when John popped up on the scene, preaching out in the wilderness and calling everyone to repentance, most people thought it could mean only one thing, the Messiah was coming.
Maybe, John was the Messiah, so they flocked to hear him preach. They nearly dove into the water to be baptized in preparation for the Messiah’s coming. Some even went so far as to say John the Baptizer was the Messiah. He was quick to straighten them out. He wasn’t the Messiah, he was just the “voice crying in the wilderness” which God spoke of in Isaiah. He was simply the advance team, the one preparing the way for the coming true Messiah.
And then it happened. Jesus showed up at the Jordan one day. Listen to the Gospel of Mark’s version of those events found in Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)
 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.
 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Later in the Gospel of John, we read John the Baptist’s testimony about this event. John 1:29-34 (NRSV)
 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’
 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
B. The question of Jesus’ identity was very important to nearly everybody it seemed. The Scribes and Pharisees, the Sadduccees, Herod, the Disciples, the crowds following, everybody wanted to know who Jesus was. “Who Are You?” That was the question of the day. Some wanted to know because they were hoping for the Messiah and the salvation promised by God. Some wanted to know because they didn’t want to lose their power and position when the Messiah came. Some wanted to know so they could hitch their wagon to or ride the coattails of the one who would be in charge.
“Who Are You?” Jesus even quizzed the Disciples about what people were saying about him and who they thought he was. They were on retreat in Caesarea Philippi when Jesus stopped and asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” Jesus got as many answers as there were disciples. They all hoped they knew the correct answer. But, you know that while they were answering, they were all asking the same question in their head and in their hearts, “Who Are You?”
II. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE?:
A. Peter would surprise them with his answer but then, so did John the Baptizer. Both Peter and John said basically the same thing, “I know who you are.” The fact that John and Peter were able to say, “I know who you are” was NOT the Event. It was a contributing factor leading up to the Event but it wasn’t The Event.
After baptizing Jesus, John saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove. He heard the voice of God declare: “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” John said, “I know who you are, You are “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” And he testified to the crowds that Jesus was and is the Son of God.
And Peter, at Caesarea Philippi, surprised everyone, even himself maybe. When confronted with making a statement of faith about the identity of Jesus, Peter said, “I know who you are: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Of course, there was never any doubt in Jesus’ mind. There would be a time when he would struggle deeply with fulfilling his call, fulfilling his mission so to speak. The struggle would be such that the fate of the world, the fate of all humankind would be in his hands. He would struggle with whether He could go through with it or not but there was never any doubt who he was. He never looked in the mirror and said, “Who Are You.” Instead, every single day was lived in the knowledge of who he was.
The question Jesus asked the Disciples after he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” “Who do YOU say that I am?” is a very important one for us. Our answer can define who WE are and what we think about ourselves
III. KNOWING HIM HELPS YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE:
A. You and I often struggle with our identity. We wrestle with who we are; especially when we’re young. There is a part of us that desires to belong, to fit in, to be one of “the crowd.” And believe it or not, we WILL fill that need or desire even if it’s with a group or a crowd that’s not good for us. At least we belong to someone.
There’s a great scene in the movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” The main character, Flint Lockwood, is a young inventor who dreams of creating something that will improve everyone’s life. Flint’s latest and most successful invention is an attempt to solve world hunger. It works but there’s a glitch, it doesn’t rather than making food appear on a plate, the food falls from the sky like rain. And then it gets, worse, Things go terribly wrong and food 8 to 10 to 100 times its normal size starts falling form the sky randomly.
Sam Sparks is a TV reporter who sort of stumbles into the story. She and Flint have been hanging out for a few weeks and Flint has noticed that Sam tries to hide the fact that she really understands science, instead she pretends to be clueless, cute and bubbly. When Flint uses his new machine to create a mansion of Sam’s favorite food, Jell-O, he hopes to break through and tell her he really likes her and wants to be more than just friends if she’ll just be herself. Watch:
B. You and I act like that sometimes. It might be our upbringing; it could be a single incident in our lives or multiple incidents which cause us to doubt ourselves. For me it was growing up as the unwanted son and the unwanted stepson. I didn’t know what to think about myself. I didn’t know who I truly was because didn’t feel like I belonged to anybody.
Maybe it wasn’t your family. Maybe it was just the fact that you grew up a little different or looked a little different or dressed a little different or had a different color of skin or different accent or whatever. Others looked at you or treated you differently when all you wanted to do was fit in. And maybe you gave up some of who you really were in order to become what others thought you should be. And somewhere along the way, you lost your true self. You looked in the mirror and asked the same question: “Who Are You?” And what you really want to say is: “I know who you are.”
Through all of this, and throughout my years in ministry what I’ve discovered is that sometimes we need to know who someone else is before we can truly know who we are. And that’s why John’s witness as well as Peter’s witness are so important. They give us a clue as to who Jesus is and what difference He can make in our lives. They challenge us to ask the question Jesus asked the Disciples: “Who do YOU say that I am.”
I think when we answer that question, when we accept Christ Jesus as the Son of God and our savior, Jesus leans over and says to us: “I Know Who You Are” and that defines us. When we’re defined by and in Jesus, it makes a difference that others can see. Our lives become an invitation for others to see the work of God through Christ in our lives. They will see Christ in our actions and be able to say: “I Know Who You Are.”
A number of years ago, in a small town much like Glen Rose, I was standing in line at the grocery store. I had the honey do list in one hand, the bread, milk, and other stuff in the basket. In front of me at the checkout counter was a young man around eight or nine years old. He was looking over that display of candy bars that are always there to tempt everyone who’s on a diet. I could tell this was an important and momentous decision.
As a boy, choosing just the right candy bar was never easy. You had to weigh all the factors. The ratio of nuts to chocolate divided by the depth of desire gave a quotient that had to factor in the amount of money you had to spend.
When he picked up a big old Baby Ruth and laid it on the counter I remember thinking, “Good choice.” The cashier rang it up and told him how much it was. The boy reached in his pocket and pulled out a bunch of pennies, nickels and a single dime and plomped them on the counter. The cashier gave him one of those looks and started counting. Then he looked up and said, “You’re 12 cents short. You need another 12 cents.”
The boy’s shoulder’s drooped, his face dropped and He went from grin to groan in less than a second.
Just as the cashier started to tell the little boy to put the candy bar back, I reached in my pocket and put 12 cents on the counter. The boy jumped but his face lit up like Christmas. He said, “Thanks, mister.” And he took off.
But then, he turned around and came back. He held up the candy bar and asked, “Hey, mister, you wanna bite?”
I said, “No thanks, you eat it.” Then he looked at me real careful, like he was studying me and he asked. “How come? How come you did that?”
Before I could answer, he got a look of recognition on his face and said. “Oh, I know who you, you’re that preacher. Jesus made you do it, didn’t he?”
What could I say but “Yes, he did.”
Then he said, “I sure like Jesus. And I’m glad Jesus makes nice people like you. Bye.”
Then he was gone. I don’t know who touched who more. I DO know that I’ve never gotten that much pleasure out 12 cents since or before. I didn’t do anything special, but because of 12 cents that little boy recognized the love of Christ through me. He saw Jesus not me.
And in my opinion, that’s a pretty good identity to have.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.