Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Top Ten Questions God Asks Us- Number Seven

The seventh question of the Top Ten Questions God Asks Us is: Who do you say I am? We move deeper into the New Testament now. Jesus is with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi in Northernmost Israel. This incident is the turning point in the Gospel story. Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, stops here with those he loves best, with his best followers.

Jesus asks first: “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples respond with what would be for the Jews obvious answers: “Some say you’re John the Baptist returned from the dead. Some, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Even Herod thought Jesus to be John the Baptist come back from the dead. Elijah, it was said, would return before the great and terrible day of the Lord and the coming of Messiah. Jeremiah wept for the sin of his people and God’s judgment of them. All of the prophets confronted the powers and were rejected, just like Jesus.

Jesus is one of the most fascinating people in history. It should not surprise us that people have such strong opinions about him still. You hear people say all the time in our culture about Jesus: He was a good man, a great teacher, a social reformer, a prophet, or a sage of wisdom.

These identifications of Jesus are true as far as they go. If we have these opinions, we can go our merry way. Jesus is a good teacher and, so are others. I have heard Jesus, in our day, called a myth and a metaphor.

Now, you see, Jesus didn’t ask what others were saying about him just to see what the polls were saying. He asked this question to lay the foundation for the next question, the question. Who do you say that I am?

Of course, it’s Peter who answers: “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God…” Jesus is not someone that we can make into whatever we want. We would like that. Some still do this- refusing to name who Jesus is. But it takes faith to say what Peter said. We should expect that people without faith and the Holy Spirit could say this. It’s only with faith that we can say that Jesus is Messiah and Son of God.

Just in the last few years, I found myself in a class at one of our Methodist places. The teacher was talking about leadership. He was a good teacher. He spoke with conviction and tears some of the time. Then, we started talking about God and Jesus; and suddenly it was all metaphor. He said: “Jesus was not the Son of God; that’s just how we think of him.” And, we were encouraged to think of Jesus any way that we wanted, not bound by revelation or anything passé like that.

No, Jesus was Messiah, the One, who was to come and will come, the One who saves, heals, reconciles. He is also Son of God. Not that Jesus was adopted to this, no, he was from the very beginning God in flesh. Mysteriously clothed in flesh he walked among us and gave himself for us.

I weary with those who would speak with any understanding about Jesus who do not have faith. It’s a gift of faith to see him as the One, the Son of God. If the church proclaims anything or anyone else, let her be silenced.

The great Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy, was leaving class one day when a student stopped him and asked: “Dr. Willard, how can you an educated, intellectual, man follow Jesus?” Willard answered: “Who else did you have in mind?”

That’s it! There is no other. He is the One. Know him; follow and find life. If you’ve been with Jesus, there is simply no other place to go.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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