Thursday, July 11, 2013
Who do you say I am?
Who did Jesus say he was? Sometimes he asked others that same question. Mark records how he put it to the disciples: “But what about you? Who do you say I am? And Peter takes a leap and says, “You are the Christ.’” Jesus immediately warns them not to tell others. It wasn’t helpful to his mission; it wasn’t his message.
That didn’t stop the speculations of others. Some argued that the Scriptures said that no one would know where the Messiah was from, and others argued that the Messiah must come from Bethlehem, but everyone knew that Jesus came from Galilee (John 7:27, 41-42).
He did use other expressions to tell people who he was. John records most of those memorable epithets where Jesus says, for example: “I am the bread of life… the light of the world… the gate for the sheep… the good shepherd… the vine for the branches… the resurrection and the life.”
Throughout his mission campaigns in Galilee and around, Jesus used language like this to merely hint at his messianic status. However, entering Jerusalem for the last time, it all altered. Nothing Jesus ever said could have been more of a signal than the donkey ride into Jerusalem, where he lived out a familiar prophecy from Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter in Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
The only three times that Jesus positively states that he is the Messiah are to the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4:24-26), during his prayer in the upper room (John 17: 1-4) and to the high priest during his interrogation (Mark 14:60-62). The rest of the time he is either silent, or he says things like “Blessed are you” and “You say so” or “I have told you” (Matthew 16:17; Luke 23:3; John 10:25).
He made a further allusion to being the Messiah which Luke records: “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). If we count that, it makes just four times in the Gospels, and two more in rather different circumstances after the resurrection, on the Emmaeus Road and by the lakeside in Galilee respectively. Not a big theme of his exactly.
Jesus hardly mentions the Messiah, not because he was not the Messiah, but because he did not want to talk about it much.
What he wanted to talk about was the kingdom of God that he was establishing. He wanted to talk about money, debt, peace, love and repentance, and all the important things in life. He did not want to get enmeshed in first-century Israel’s self-centred inward-looking dreams of political glory.
This is one of the key things about the Wrong Messiah – he was just not that interested in messianic theories.
There were far more important things to discuss.
An older generation liked to have their name and title on the desk – and some of that lives on in our desire for legitimacy. What, in terms of status, privilege or influence, could you let go of in a Jesus-like way?
What, in your world, is it more important to be, or to be talking about?