Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Road to Messiah Identity

Isaiah 50:4-9     Psalm 116:1-8      James 3:1-12      Mark 8:27-36

Jesus asks the disciples, "who do you say I am?" because personal identity matters even to Jesus. Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus "is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation." The Ancient Fathers say that the divine image is within us, but we have lost the likeness. This means we are no longer our true self. The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, so that the Word can become our flesh to unite us with God. This is theosis.

Ephesians 4 explains the human predicament: "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart." The Greek word literally means a callus, and refers to the heart being covered by a hardened barrier. What is this callus on our heart?

I think it includes the 'persona, or 'mask' which is our "ego." While the ego flows from the True Self, it is not the image of God. An ego is necessary to survive in the world. It is impossible to simply be completely open. But the ego, who we are in the world, is not our true self. Our "personal identity" is a co-creation, including what others imposed upon us and what we fashion in order to live in this fallen world. The ego includes the "roles" we play in order to survive and thrive. Like an actor, we sometimes forget that we are not the roles we play, and we have all lost ourselves in the roles we play. Over time the ego identity hardens, covering the image of God in our heart with a callus which separates us from God, each other and even ourselves. "Who am I?" is the hardest question to answer because we spend much of our life avoiding the answer. Even if Jesus knew who He was, He still shares in our complicated human situation of keeping the ego from replacing the Self.

Jesus is the Messiah. Today we sing: "Crown Him with many crowns," but clearly are many crowns and different types of people have their own preference [+see below]:

A Messiah who is a righteous teacher of impeccable perfection, or the Shepherd who feeds the flock and heals the sheep. A successful King to rival Rome, or a Special Man like no others. A Wisdom Messiah who is the source esoteric information, a King who makes us safe and secure. A Messiah who saves us from pain, defeats oppressors on behalf of the poor and needy and reigns as Prince of Peace. Each is part of Jesus' Messianic identity--but however authentic they were part of His ego, not His True Self.

While we would crown Him with many crowns, He remains faithful to the Father's will and  His true identity, so He takes up the crown of thorns. The Cross: suffering, death and resurrection is the authentic, holy path of the Messiah Jesus.

Hebrews 5:8-9 says "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him." The Scriptures sometime say things which we might not ever realize are true. I always thought that the Jesus was perfect, I never thought he had to learn obedience, I never thought that suffering perfected Him. I guess I never thought through the implications of the Incarnation--that Jesus is really human.  

Jesus had to defeat the Passions and the False Identities which sought to control Him, and ultimately destroy Him. Jesus had to rebuke Satan's lies and human thinking. Jesus had to struggle to hear His Father's voice through the cacophony of false voices everywhere.

On the cross, Jesus does perfectly what He says we also must do. We must carry a cross and let the ego be crucified. The ego, that hardened callus on our heart that keeps the image of God hidden within us and separates us from God. The cross does not appeal, so, we prefer what is false and turn from holiness because the cost is too great. We are seduced by the same half truths and deceived like everyone else. We prefer to play a character which we know is "not me" to simply make it through another day.

Messianic pretenders perish. The crucifixion frees Jesus from becoming anti-Christ, a counterfeit Messiah who does the good things people want, but turns His back on God in the process.

We are called to be holy--to become what we already are, Children of God. Only the Holy Spirit can achieve this miracle of making us the image and likeness of God. The cross is the process. Hear Romans 6:5ff "For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so the body of sin might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved by sin."

+The Enneagram's Nine Paths might be a helpful model to look at the basic types of "persona".
Each one has its strengths and special challenges. These different types would each have a particular vision of Messiah, and what He should be doing. Each view is partial, limited and therefore contains truth but not the whole truth. God's perspective would not only include, but also transcend each one, and this is Jesus' point. To be Messiah is beyond our understanding--so He says "tell no one" as He begins to school them in the godly definition of Messiah. Definitions matter.  Death and weakness as the expression of God's power is beyond the grasp of human beings....
Family Systems are another model for understanding the ego image and roles we play.

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