From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Nine, Day Two
Most of us are so familiar with the title "Christ" that we tend to consider it part of Jesus' personal name. But what exactly does it mean? Like "Messiah," "Christ" means the "anointed one." The phrase "anointed one" refers to someone who has been set apart for a special mission.
That was how the first Christians thought about Jesus. As Israel's Messiah, he was the greatest of all kings, the one called and empowered to destroy God's enemies and extend his kingdom throughout the earth. His mission was to put an end to our deepest troubles — to rebellion, sin, and death. When we pray to Jesus Christ, we are praying to the Messiah, the Anointed One, whose mission involves calling the world back to God through the power of his love.
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
Praying the Name
"Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven..."
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but merely human concerns." Matthew 16:15-17, 21-23
Reflect On: Matthew 16:13-23.
Praise God: Because his thoughts are higher than ours.
Offer Thanks: For Christ's willingness to suffer.
Confess: Any tendency to settle for less than what Christ desires for you.
Ask God: To give you his mind and heart.
How ironic that Peter's 20/20 vision clouded so quickly. Having identified Jesus as the Christ, Peter recoiled the moment Jesus spoke about suffering and death. How could the man on whom he had pinned his hope talk about defeat? How could the Messiah save Israel by lying in a grave? Peter can hardly be faulted for failing to realize that the way to victory would be down and not up, and that the way to life would run straight through death.
Like the rest of the Jews who were looking for Israel's deliverance, Peter was guilty of trying to reshape Jesus into the Messiah he wanted, not the Messiah he needed. His failure to see that the main problem was not external dominance but the internal oppression of sin made him like a doctor who performs cosmetic surgery when what a patient really needs is a quadruple bypass. Jesus, the most perceptive of physicians, wasn't interested in merely alleviating human suffering. He wanted his people to live forever. And to do that, he was willing to lay down his life in order to himself become their medicine.
I wonder how many of us make Peter's mistake, even with the benefit of hindsight. We know that Jesus came to deliver us by dying on a cross and then rising from the dead. But do we realize that after having gone to such an extreme, Christ is not about to let us settle for the surface goods we so ardently desire?
I confess to taking voyeuristic pleasure in a television show about extreme makeovers. It's astonishing to see what liposuction, plastic surgery, makeup, hair dye, and expensive clothing can do for people. But I can't help thinking that such transformations aren't really all that extreme. After all, they don't alter who people are under the skin.
I wonder too what could motivate people to expose themselves in this way on national television.
Then it occurs to me to wonder about my own priorities. How much time do I spend thinking about quick fixes that would improve my life? How about a little more money? Or what if I could teach my children to respond to my every request with: "Yes, Mama, whatever you say, Mama?" Or what if I could retire early and travel the world? Wouldn't all these things make my life better? Maybe, but maybe not.
Sometimes getting what you want is more of a curse than a blessing. Jesus, it would seem, specializes not in the quick fix but in the kind of extreme makeover that transforms us and the world from the inside. Such changes take time. Though Christ blesses us in this life, his goals for us stretch far beyond it. That's one reason we won't always get what we pray for.
Instead of the success I desire, I may need to endure a time of humiliation and loss. Or instead of controlling my children, I may need to learn how to guide them into greater maturity. Or rather than granting me early retirement, Christ may reveal new ways for me to serve.
What do you want Jesus to do for you today? Make a wish list. Then ask him to show you what you truly need rather than what you simply want. Write down what you hear. Ask Christ for the grace to transform your mind so that you can begin to make his priorities yours. Then praise him for being the Messiah you need rather than merely the Messiah you want.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.