“Who do you say that I am?”
This is the whopper of a question Jesus poses to his disciples, and through them, us, in the scripture passage we’ll explore this Sunday ( Matthew 16:13-21 ). It is a question (THE question) that has stopped me in my tracks this week as I imagine how I might respond, not with an answer based in theological or rote knowledge or creed, but from my heart. Who do I – from personal, lived experience and relationship with Jesus – say that he is? Where do I experience Jesus in my life today in ways that open my eyes and heart to an answer to this question? What does my answer say about me and how I am called to be, speak and act in this beautiful and broken world?
In the scripture, Peter gives one right answer, but I’m not inclined to believe Jesus posed this question desiring or expecting a set answer (as if it were a school exam), but rather from a place of inquiry and care for his disciples, his friends. “Who do YOU say that I am?” It is the question on which our faith, decisions, actions, lives, and understanding of ourselves, individually and collectively, depends. In this question, Jesus asks us to give voice to our answer, and then to walk the talk – no small ask in our world, culture and lives today (as it is and has been no small ask for Christians around the world and throughout time).
For me it is a question almost beyond answering with words. If a loved one were to ask me ‘who do you say that I am?,’ words, as they so often do, would fall short in capturing the fullness of that person and my feelings for them. How much more difficult then, for our relationship with Jesus? Yet, when I’m paying attention (and sometimes in shocking moments when I’m not, and Jesus wakes me up) I do unmistakably experience Jesus’ presence and know him when I see him. Jesus – God incarnate, alive and present among us — for me, shows up alive and active in the middle of real conversations; in moments of quiet prayer with another; in listening to a child tell a story about her week; in moments gathered around the table; in that space within and between me and another when I am fully present to their suffering or joy. Jesus was unmistakably present in our worship service with our congregation at the Waban Health Center this week. Perhaps you also can remember a time when you have experienced Jesus in the face or touch of others, in worship together, or in moments with loved ones or strangers in your home, work or elsewhere.
I believe we experience the Who of Jesus Christ in the relationships we nourish; in the moments when we are present to our neighbor and to God. It is easy, I think, in the busyness of our days, with the lure of screens, and with other distractions, or real worries that cloud our vision, to miss Who of Jesus moments. Wherever you find yourself this summer, I hope you will take this question of Jesus’- Who do you say that I am? – into your heart; and that in the question, you may find an invitation to be present to the places you might experience the Who of Jesus alive and active; calling you into unhurried relationship with others, and in those relationships, into an experience of God. It just may be that in experiencing and living the answer to Jesus’ question that everything else depends.