There is a popular phrase I’ve seen plastered on t-shirts, bumper stickers and coffee mugs: “all those who wander are not lost”. It pays homage to the idea that wanderers with no particular destination are not in fact lost or in need of direction. They are enjoying the beautiful scenery or taking the long way even if the longer route does not result in a destination.
Life’s pilgrimage takes many twists and turns. Not every path must have an end-goal or be perfectly trod. Yet, as we journey, there is a fundamental decision at the root of it all. There are choices of who or what to follow and why to follow. In my estimation, one of the primary choices is belief. This is fundamental for pilgrimage. It is most important because it defines the journey. It even defines those purposeless wandering moments.
In Mark’s Gospel Jesus and His disciples are journeying in a land known for cultures that worshipped numerous pagan gods. As they walk Jesus poses a question to them, “Who do the people say that I am?” They responded to Jesus that many people see Him as John the Baptist or Elijah, or any number of the Old Testament prophets. Clearly people that encountered Jesus did not see or hear the underlying Truth. Hearing this Jesus now pose the follow-up question, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus is asking this question directly to us. He looks us straight in the eye
Peter responded, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:27-35).
We stand like Peter. I envision the scene. I am standing near Peter. Jesus listens to what his disciples tell him. As he listens his walk slows to a complete stop. He turns to look at them as they finish their list. There is a pregnant pause as he looks each one of His disciples with compassion.
He then looks into my eyes and asks, “Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus is asking this question directly to you. To us. He looks us straight in the eye and wants to know what we think…independent of anyone else. Who do we say Jesus is? Is He just a nice guy with some good things to teach us? He is merely a prophet helping us lead a better life? Or He is ‘the Christ’. The Messiah. Our Saviors and Our God.
Jesus is the Christ and there is no other to be served. In this way we choose a path with Christ. But we must recognize that we choose a path that will not always be easy.
Jesus goes on to explain to His disciples, to us, how this choice determines the type of life we will lead (or should lead). He explains, “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
This Gospel passage is instructional for us and our pilgrimage for two reasons. The first is choosing to believe that Jesus is our Savior. The second then is to accept the paths we will have to take on our journey. The path of our cross. The path where we deny ourselves for the greater glory of God. The path where we lose our life for the sake of the Kingdom. The path where we wander, even if we are lost, yet will we remember that Jesus is the Christ and He guides us.