Who Do You Say That I Am?
“Who do people say that I am?”
“And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
These are seemingly simple questions posed by Jesus in this coming weekend’s Gospel text. As leaders in the church, we should be able to give the “textbook” definition of Jesus. We may even be able to give an engaging and enlightening presentation on topics related to Jesus’ identity–like incarnation, atonement, and resurrection.
Of course, once we slow down and take the time to sit with this question, it seems to get harder and more profound.
We have a tendency to take these questions for granted, don’t we? We have moved beyond these questions. Of course we know who Jesus is.
But when we blow past this question, we have the potential to end up appearing similar to the disciples in this passage from Mark 8. Like Peter, we give the right textbook answer: You are the Christ. But when Jesus begins to describe what that looks like practically (rejection and death), Peter exposes his ignorance by trying to talk Jesus out of his primary earthly work. Does our answer to that question hold up to the test of real life?
And what about the people–the people we are assuming are getting the essentials through our preaching, teaching, and ministry? “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others one of the prophets.” Fast-forward to today, and that could just as easily read, “Some say a historical figure with some interesting ideas, some say a cool dude, and still others say their best friend.” Maybe they aren’t picking up as much as we thought?
If the answer to Jesus’ question leaves us concerned, it is time to apply that question to the areas of ministry upon which we are relying. Who does our worship say Jesus is? Who does our discipleship program say Jesus is? Who does our fellowship program say Jesus is? Who does our mission program say Jesus is?
What if, when we look closely, our worship service says that Jesus is an entertaining superhero who will always come to our rescue? What if our discipleship program says that Jesus is an interesting historical figure about whom we should learn as many facts as possible? What if our fellowship program says that Jesus is the president of our club? What if our mission program says that Jesus is a convenient release valve for guilt? If we don’t like the answers to any of those questions, perhaps we have found an area for change and growth.
Lectionary Connections: Year B Proper 19
Header image by Flickr user Jared eberhardt. Used under Creative Commons License. Edited/Cropped from Original.