Soon we are entering the season of Lent. It is a call to ponder our image of Jesus Christ. Peter’s Confession (Mark 8: 27-34) can lead us in preparation for Easter.
Jesus went on with his disciples . . . on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” . . . 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 . . . And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
“Who do people say that I am?” . . . they answered him, John the Baptist . . . Elijah . . . one of the prophets.” Lent calls us to consider the various conceptions of Christ. In today’s world there are countless and contradictory ideas of Jesus. Our image is further tinted by important relationships associated with God. God calls us to face these images and struggle with their validity.
“But who do you say that I am?” Lent calls us to be responsible for our images of Christ. Peter’s was that of a conquering hero, liberating Israel from her oppressors. Ours can be confining, restrictive, or oppressive. As we prepare for Easter, God reminds us that, to a certain extent, we choose our image of Christ.
Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” . . . he began to teach them . . . Lent calls us to let Jesus develop our images. Peter’s vision of Jesus as the royal king of Israel needed “updating.” Renewal, revision, and healing of our pictures can weaken the barriers separating us from God. When we open our images for correction, God brings growth.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” We are called to improve our understanding by following Him. Taking up a cross means that we follow him in losing our images in order to see God as He really is. Easter can then become a time when our images of God are called to die and be resurrected anew.
Working with the Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministries I often see an inmate’s picture of God undergo a radical change during incarceration. The many common illusions that God is a “magical genie” are refined, corrected, and matured. Each day we see lives transformed as the work of volunteers and chaplains counsel individuals, leads worship services, assists families, and changes lives broken by drugs and violence. I ask you to pray for and support this ministry that teaches men, women, and youth to deny themselves and follow Jesus.
-Chaplain Rodney Stilwell, Senior Chaplain