Proper 16 23rd August 2020 Year A
“Who do you say, I am?” That was some question for Jesus to ask Peter and the other disciples. Can you imagine what your response might have been should it have been you that Jesus asked that question of?
In actual fact, Jesus has already asked you that question. You might not be able to answer it, as I suspect that like many of us, you might still be trying to fathom out who Jesus actually is for you. It is easy to give a quick, impulse response to his question; ‘Who do you say I am?’ by simply saying; ‘the Son of God’ but what does that response really mean?
Personally, I do not think that we can give one single, definitive answer to the question because Jesus and ultimately God are revealed to each of us individually. We all get to meet God in our own way. For me if I try to answer Jesus’ question as to who he is I have to approach my answer from an exploration of his human nature, for it is Jesus’ humanity that speaks most strongly to me. For you it might be his divinity or through his miracles, or whatever.
As a human male, I approach Jesus from a point of masculinity and my human male experience. I relate very strongly to Jesus the man, in the ways he is shown to interact with his friends and disciples; in the way he uses words to explain things; and through his emotions of compassion, laughter, joy and anger. These are things I know about and understand within myself and I am therefore more able to translate my personal experience of Jesus through them. I come to Jesus via my own personal experience but I also have to acknowledge that because I do this my understanding of Jesus will be different to yours and that I can never fully understand who he actually is because I am not Jesus and he is not me. For me it is from the similarities I share with him that I come closer to an understanding of who he is.
But what if I was really pushed to say who Jesus is? What would I say?
I think I would have to say that for me, he is the being who is the human personification of our Creator God. A being that showed both his humanity and his divinity in how he lived his life. A man who through his human attributes was able to show us what God is like, perhaps not what God is but what it is like to be ‘of God’.
To be truthful I do not think that I could ever know what God is because only God can know that and I am far from being God. Yet, saying this because we are told that we share in the image of God, I also believe that we have within our knowledge of who we are, an inkling of who God is and thus who Jesus is; but it is only an inkling.
This does not confuse or disappoint me, rather on the contrary it excites me and spurs me on to further exploration. I think about and pray through who I believe God is from the ways he is revealed to me and when I say God I also take it to mean Jesus as well. This act of mental and spiritual exploration is basically ‘doing theology’ - for theology means ‘thinking about God’. We are all, even if we do not acknowledge it, theologians because we all think about God, whether or not we decide to believe in him or not. As theologians our thinking will lead all of us to different conclusions and understandings and will cause us to ask different questions and that I find exciting and fascinating. I also strongly and passionately believe that it is when we interact with each other and share our thoughts that we gain glimpses of God and who he is.
To be honest, I can’t definitely answer Jesus’ questions as to who he is but what I really want to do is to keep on asking my own questions as I ponder on my answer to him.
And, the best way to ask those questions? Well, it is to ask them in the company of others and then to get the discussion going. Isn’t theology great?