Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Who Am I?"

One time when Jesus was off praying by himself, his disciples nearby, he asked them, "What are the crowds saying about me, about who I am?"

They said, "John the Baptizer. Others say Elijah. Still others say that one of the prophets from long ago has come back."

He then asked, "And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?"

Did Jesus always pray by himself? Did he kneel? sit? pray with hands extended? What did he say to his Father? Luke says that his disciples were "nearby". Nearby, as in setting themselves off from him? watching him? not engaging in prayer, but talking quietly among themselves? about him? or about what was going on among them, their families, politics, the weather?

The area in which Jesus lived and worked certainly was abuzz about him, according to the Gospel writers. The disciples indicate that some people had the idea that Jesus was someone other than himself: like the Baptizer or one of the memorable prophets. Why did they think that? Was he that different from them? After all, he was kind of a "local" boy!

Then the big question from Jesus: "What about you guys? Who am I?" How, do you think, they reacted? a double-take? nervous chuckles? embarrassment?  Simon Peter, says Luke, broke the silence:
"You're the Messiah of God." Did he really say that, out of deep conviction? or did Luke write those words for Peter to speak, in order to make a point?

The obvious consequence of the story for each of us is to hear Jesus' question as addressed to us: "And you--what are you saying about me? Who am I?" I wonder if you feel as tongue-tied as I do in honestly answering that at times? I mean, it's hard enough to try to answer that question about myself, much less Jesus! And I say "at times" because I don't think we answer it all at once, with one glib, pat answer. At any given time, I believe, we see different sides of Jesus, depending on our own situation/emotion of the moment. In a sense, I guess we're all trying to answer Jesus' question all the time, without ever really coming up with a 25-words-or-less response.

Hopefully, our living through the blessed days of Lent will help you and me get at least a little closer to some coherent response.

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