Have you ever heard of Jesus? If so, who is He to you? This may be the most important question you will ever answer.
Whenever I meet someone new, I try to figure out who they are. Believe it or not, this can become quite tricky. Say my friend, Matt, tells me about his friend, Alex. He tells me stories of Alex and his personal experience with him. Because of Matt, I have preconceived ideas about who Alex is. But is that really who Alex is? For me to find out, I need to actually meet Alex, have my own experiences with him and see who Alex claims to be.
This is the same kind of encounter Jesus’ disciples had with Him while He was still on earth over 2000 years ago. In the Bible, in Mark 8:27-28, we read that:
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
There is no question, historically speaking, that Jesus did exist. The question is, who was He? There are people from all walks and through all centuries who have described Jesus a certain way. Some have said that He was a prophet, someone sent by God to bring people a message. Some have said that He was just a failed leader, someone who played with fire and got burned. Still others say that Jesus was simply a good teacher, from whom we can get advice on moral questions.
After the disciples answered Jesus, He turned the question on them. He wanted to know what they thought. Mark 8:29:
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
At some point, when we encounter Jesus, we will be faced with the same question Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?”
If we truly want to find out who Jesus was and is, then we need to look not only at what people said about Him, but who He claimed to be. This is where it becomes tricky.
Jesus claimed to be God!
For those of us who grew up in the church, this is something that has become normal. But think about it for a moment. If any other human claimed to be God, we would be so quick to discount them and even try to get them some help. Yet the claim that Jesus makes is that He is God incarnate, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe.
C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, outlines the problem for us quite nicely.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Peter, because of his experiences with Jesus, and because of what he saw Jesus do and say, believed that Jesus’ claim to be God was true. The only way for us to also be able to answer this question is to get to know Jesus for ourselves. Good thing for us, we have ample resources to do this. We have the Bible, 2000 years of church history, the created world around us, and the privilege of being invited into relationship with Jesus Himself.
As I continue to learn more about Jesus’ story, what He taught, what He did, what He wants to do for/in us today, and what His plan is to restore all things unto Himself, I am more and more convinced that only the true son of God could/would do the things Jesus did/does. Like Lewis pointed out, Jesus does not give us the option to simply call Him a good teacher. In my experience, He really is who He says He is. If I truly believe that, then that will have HUGE implications on my life (but that’s a topic for another time).
In the end, as Jesus pointed that question to his disciples, He also points it to us. So, what about you? Who do you say Jesus is?