In an article for Leadership Journal, John Ortberg relays the story of the “Three Christs of Ypsilanti” from the book of the same name by Psychiatrist Milton Rokeach. Each man was suffering from delusions of grandeur. Each one believed himself to be the Messiah, the savior of humanity. Given how deeply these delusions were entrenched, Rokeach had very little success in helping his clients recognize reality.
But his efforts were not completely without success. Rokeach realized the most progress when he got the three men together. His hope was that each one, when confronted with the reality of a competing messiah, would be forced to reexamine his own identity. Ortberg notes:
This led to some interesting conversations. One would claim, "I'm the messiah, the Son of God. I was sent here to save the earth."
"How do you know?" Rokeach would ask in response.
“God told me.”
But then one of the other patients would counter, "I never told you any such thing."
Even this particular strategy met with very limited success. But it did help. A competing claim to the identity of Christ at least gave each man reason to pause and rethink things.
It could be said that you and I suffer from the same affliction as the three Christs of Ypsilanti. It’s just a matter of degree. We are also capable of deluding ourselves to the point that we think should be in charge. We all make some veiled claim of messiahship.
And like the three men in the study, we are freed from any such false claim when confronted by the real thing. We can’t come into contact with God and continue to think that we ourselves are the ones in charge. God (mostly gently, sometimes not) relieves us of our blindness. Hopefully this will put us back in the position for which we are best suited. We can stop being the leaders and we can start being the followers. God has need of only one Messiah. And he has performed his job more than adequately. Now he’s looking for people to do what he did.
In this Sunday’s passage, we’re going to see how Jesus commissions his disciples to go out on their own missions. What’s important to note, though, is that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. All they have to do is imitate Christ. The same goes for us.