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Who Are You?

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Who Are You?
Who Are You?
Many of us more seasoned Saints have read or have heard of Ralph Ellison’s book entitled the “Invisible Man”. Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison about an African American man whose color renders him invisible, published in 1952. It addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity.
The narrator, an unnamed black man, begins by describing his living conditions: an underground room wired with hundreds of electric lights, operated by power stolen from the city's electric grid. He reflects on the various ways in which he has experienced social invisibility during his life and begins to tell his story, returning to his teenage years.
The narrator lives in a small Southern town and, upon graduating from high school, wins a scholarship to an all-black college. However, in order to receive it, he must first take part in a brutal, humiliating battle royal for the entertainment of the town's rich white dignitaries.
One afternoon during his junior year at the college, the narrator chauffeurs Mr. Norton, a visiting rich white trustee, out among the old slave-quarters beyond the campus. By chance, he stops at the cabin of Jim Trueblood, who has caused a scandal by impregnating both his wife and his daughter in his sleep. Trueblood's account horrifies Mr. Norton so badly that he asks the narrator to find him a drink. The narrator drives him to a bar filled with patients from a nearby mental hospital, who rail against both of them and eventually overwhelm the orderly stationed there to keep the patients under control. The narrator hurries Mr. Norton away from the chaotic scene and back to campus.
Dr. Bledsoe, the college president, excoriates the narrator for showing Mr. Norton the underside of black life beyond the campus and expels him. However, Bledsoe gives several letters of recommendation to the narrator, to be delivered to friends of the college in order to assist him in finding a job so that he may eventually re-enroll. The narrator travels to New York and distributes his letters, with no success; the son of one recipient shows him the letter, which reveals Bledsoe's intent to never admit the narrator as a student again.
Acting on the son's suggestion, the narrator seeks work at a paint factory renowned for its pure white paint. He is assigned first to the shipping department, then to the boiler room, whose chief attendant, Lucius Brockway, is highly paranoid and suspects that the narrator is trying to take his job. This distrust worsens after the narrator stumbles into a union meeting, and Brockway attacks the narrator and tricks him into setting off an explosion in the boiler room. The narrator is hospitalized and subjected to shock treatment, overhearing the doctors' discussion of him as a possible mental patient.
After leaving the hospital, the narrator faints on the streets of Harlem and is taken in by Mary Rambo, a kindly old-fashioned woman who reminds him of his relatives in the South. He later happens across the eviction of an elderly black couple and makes an impassioned speech that incites the crowd to attack the law enforcement officials in charge of the proceedings. The narrator escapes over the rooftops and is confronted by Brother Jack, the leader of a group known as "the Brotherhood" that professes its commitment to bettering conditions in Harlem and the rest of the world. At Jack's urging, the narrator agrees to join and speak at rallies to spread the word among the black community. Using his new salary, he pays Mary the back rent he owes her and moves into an apartment provided by the Brotherhood.
The rallies go smoothly at first, with the narrator receiving extensive indoctrination on the Brotherhood's ideology and methods. Soon, though, he encounters trouble from Ras the Exhorter, a fanatical black nationalist who believes that the Brotherhood is controlled by whites. Neither the narrator nor Tod Clifton, a youth leader within the Brotherhood, is particularly swayed by his words. The narrator is later called before a meeting of the Brotherhood and accused of putting his own ambitions ahead of the group. He is reassigned to another part of the city to address issues concerning women, seduced by the wife of a Brotherhood member, and eventually called back to Harlem when the Brotherhood's membership and influence begin to falter.
The narrator can find no trace of Clifton at first, but soon discovers him selling dancing Sambo dolls on the street, having become disillusioned with the Brotherhood. Clifton is shot and killed by a policeman while resisting arrest; at his funeral, the narrator delivers a rousing speech that rallies the crowd to support the Brotherhood again. At an emergency meeting, Jack and the other Brotherhood leaders criticize the narrator for his unscientific arguments and the narrator realizes that the group has no real interest in the black community's problems.
The narrator returns to Harlem, trailed by Ras's men, and buys a hat and a pair of sunglasses to elude them. As a result, he is repeatedly mistaken for a man named Rinehart, known as a lover, a hipster, a gambler, a briber, and a spiritual leader. Understanding that Rinehart has adapted to white society at the cost of his own identity, the narrator resolves to undermine the Brotherhood by feeding them dishonest information concerning the Harlem membership and situation. After seducing the wife of one member in a fruitless attempt to learn their new activities, he discovers that riots have broken out in Harlem due to widespread unrest. He realizes that the Brotherhood has been counting on such an event in order to further its own aims. The narrator gets mixed up with a gang of looters, who burn down a tenement building, and wanders away from them to find Ras, now on horseback, armed with a spear and shield, and calling himself "the Destroyer." Ras shouts for the crowd to lynch the narrator, but the narrator attacks him with the spear and escapes into an underground coal bin. Two white men seal him in, leaving him alone to ponder the racism he has experienced in his life.
The epilogue returns to the present, with the narrator stating that he is ready to return to the world because he has spent enough time hiding from it. He explains that he has told his story in order to help people see past his own invisibility, and also to provide a voice for people with a similar plight: "Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?"
“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, [12] so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. [13] Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ [14] Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [15] [One day] the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ [16] Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (NIV)
There is a sharp contrast in this passage of scripture between authentic and inauthentic ministry. The first section shows the power of God manifested through the works of Paul, while the second half shows what happens when someone seeks notoriety, but are not operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we contrast the two, I want to take them out of order and look at the second half of the scripture passage first. Seven sons of a Jewish chief priest were attempting to cast out demons “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” The evil spirits replied, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ and then jumped on the brothers and gave them a good whipping. The brothers left the house, humiliated and physically hurt, powerless against the evil spirits. Before we go further, let me remind you that the scripture suggests that believers need not fear the dark side because God is greater than the forces of evil. John wrote, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” ( KJV) But these men didn’t have God’s power; they were imposters, wanting the notoriety that Paul had without the commitment. The evil spirits said to them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’
Oakland Raiders fans will remember Kenny King, a running back that Al Davis acquired from the Houston Oilers in 1980. They will especially remember his 80-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl XV that helped the “Silver and Black” defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 27–10 and stood as a Super Bowl record for 16 years. Though he didn’t have a Hall of Fame career, he certainly left his mark on the NFL. ( Long before he played for the Raiders or for Oklahoma University, he played A-ball in Clarendon, Texas. How do I know that? He was a senior at Clarendon High School when I was a freshman 52 miles away in Silverton.
Every Monday during football season, practice would begin with watching the film from the previous week’s game and a discussion of the team we would be playing on Friday night. The week before the Clarendon game, Coach spent most of the team meeting talking about Kenny King, and for good reason, he was an outstanding player. But the talk didn’t end with the team meeting, all week long during drills, Our Coaches talked about King and what he wanted us to do to try to stop him. It was as if the other 10 players wouldn’t take the field. King got inside our heads.
The game was such a blowout, that coach put in the freshman players to get some experience. One of my good friends tried to tackle King after he’d broken out of the backfield by jumping on his back. King carried him all the way to the end zone. I didn’t even do that well against him. On a couple of occasions he ran with the ball in my direction and I attempted to tackle him, but bounced off of him like a bb hitting a tank. King dominated the field from end zone to end zone. Perhaps that is why lists him as one of the outstanding players to ever play Texas football.
I am confid ent that when Clarendon’s coach ran down the Silverton Team lineup he didn’t mention Jimmy Wilson, a 110-pound freshman tackle playing for the Silverton Owls. I was a nobody sitting on the bench, surrounded by other nobodies. Our opponent didn’t even know I existed and I did nothing on the field that day that would have caught their eye the next week when they reviewed the film, unless they were looking for a good laugh.
The evil spirits replied, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Paul had distinguished himself in the way he’d lived and you’d better believe that the evil spirits knew who he was.
Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years ministering among the people with great results. Dr. Luke noted the extent of Paul’s healing power in the opening verses of our text, Paul didn’t actually have to touch sick people to heal them, if someone took a handkerchief that he’d touched and took it to the sick, they would be healed. This was not a power intrinsic in Paul, nor did he deserve any special notoriety because of it, verse 11 makes it clear that God was doing these miracles through Paul. Paul enjoyed great healing powers here, but later would be unable to heal himself. Paul writes about this in “For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, [7] especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. [8] Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. [9] But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. [10] So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (HCSB) In , the power of God flows through Paul to heal those who are sick, and in , the grace of God sustains Paul through his sickness. Why didn’t God heal Paul? Paul said it was so that he would not exalt himself.
Humility is the shadow cast from a great person. says, “Likewise, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [6] Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, [7] casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.” (HCSB) Humility is a necessary trait of greatness On February 12, 2000 two great men died of cancer, Cowboys football coach Tom Landry and Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz Writer Mike Lopresti said, “One spoke with his coaching and his dignity. The other with a comic strip that reached the underdog in us all. One will be remembered for his hat and his grace and his football team. The other for Lucy and Linus and Charlie Brown” (
Though both achieved fame and fortune for their work, both were surprised by their fame and appeal. “People will forget me quick,” Landry said the day he was fired from the Cowboys by new owner Jerry Johnson. “All I did was draw pictures,” Schulz said upon receiving over 500 get well letters arrive in one day when fans heard of his illness.
God chooses to use humble people for his work, people who are not interested in receiving glory, but whose desire is to bring glory to God.
For Paul, fame wasn’t an end in itself, but an unwanted consequence of living a substantial Christian life, doing the work of God. His goal wasn’t notoriety, but faithful service. In he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [22] If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. [23] I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. [24] But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. [25] Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, [26] so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” (ESV)
Our text provides a stark contrast between a man who lived for Christ who never sought the spotlight and seven brothers who didn’t live for Christ but wanted His power.
Jesus said “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” ( NKJV) Paul gave up his life, for Christ’s sake, and found it.
Have you? Have you surrendered your life to Him? If not, you can today.
Wilson, J. L. (2009). Fresh Sermons. Fresno, CA: Willow City Press.
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