Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who do you say that I am?

I was reflecting last night during a long stretch of highway on Holy Week, sad that I would be missing the Maundy Thursday service this year.  I thought about liberation theology, some adherents of which find the center of their Christianity in Good Friday because their experience is one of oppression and suffering; they don't want to get to Easter yet because, frankly, it's not something with which they can relate at all. The same subject came up again in a conversation with my wife this afternoon, and we reminded each other that the foci of our motivations for being pastors – indeed, for being Christians – are totally different parts of the Gospel accounts, yet we come around to the same place with the same goals (and tensions between those goals).

The center of this discussions is this: how do you answer Jesus's question, "Who do you say that I am?"  Christians answer this question differently, as did the disciples.  Of course, Peter's answer, "You are the Christ," is highly praised by Jesus, but he is soon after chastised with "Get behind me, Satan!"  We are in the same boat (if you'll excuse the expression): we are totally in sync with Jesus one minute and totally headed in the wrong direction the next.  It's the brokenness we experience because of sin which makes walking with Jesus so difficult, but it's God's love which turns our heads again to look at our Lord.  But I digress...

If we're honest, we can think of one singular moment in the stories of Jesus's life that exemplifies the way we best associate with Jesus.  For me, it's in the darkness of Maundy Thursday at the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus knows that the tide has turned from his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and that he will soon be taken prisoner.  He is tempted to take upon himself the godly powers which can save him, but that would betray the way he has lived his completely human life and the purpose of his ministry.  In his moment of weakness, Jesus pours his heart out to the Creator and begs for the strength to withstand what is coming, for the strength to be the man he wants to be in the face of terrible adversity.  Jesus is fully human and cannot do what he needs to do by himself; he needs the company of the Creator to stay resolute.  This moment is the center of my faith, why I know that Jesus is completely human and died a horribly painful death to display God's love for us.

Each person has a Gospel moment which is their "favorite," their own answer to the question, "Who do you say that I am?"  We know, of course, that Jesus is all of these things, that part of the reason God became human is so that we could better relate to our creator.  Our human experience and Jesus's human experience cross in lots of ways so that everyone could find some way to cling to that man and through him become familiar with God's love.  I would argue that our answer to Jesus's question doesn't particularly reveal a whole lot about who Jesus is, but rather that it reveals a great deal about who we are and how we view ourselves.  It's not for anyone else to say what our answer says about us, but it's certainly something to think about as we seek for a closer walk with God.

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