Asking a Personal Question

“Who do you say that I am?”

I wonder who Jesus was looking at when he asked his disciples this question. He’d already asked the easy one, what are the crowds saying. But now, he wanted their own view, their personal understanding of what he was all about. I imagine there was some shuffling feet, the sound of a few cleared throats and a few eyes staring at the ground.

But then, Peter has an answer. “You are the messiah.”

And communities of faith ever since have spent many long hours coming up with studies, statements and creeds that have tried to qualify what that means – as a community. And that’s helpful, but only if we understand that a community is a living thing that’s made up of individuals, each of whom is seeking a relationship with God.

So, who do you say that Jesus is?

If you were to ask me that question, I’d say that my answer has two parts.

First, today – and I say today because I’m alive, like Jesus, and I may grow – today, I say that, for me, Jesus is “God with us,” Emmanuel. I understand that, not in a way that shows us something new or a power that’s remote and unattainable, but in a way that shows us who we truly are and brings us back to our very beginning: we are created in the image of God and of the earth. We, too, are divine and human. Jesus shows us how to live into our divinity and humanity so that we may be wholely, fully, who we truly are.

Jesus reconnects us with God by showing us how God – the life and love of creation – is in each of our hearts. God isn’t just “out there,” but within each of us and we, too, can live that into the world.

I have so much more to say and, more importantly, do to answer that question, but I’m trying to be as succinct as Peter. The fact is, we answer the question in our living as much as in our words, and that can take a lifetime.

Second, I’d say “please tell me who you say Jesus is.” Speak to me from your heart about how you know God, with whatever language is meaningful for you. Show me how you know Jesus, ask questions and share with me a dialogue that allows us to travel together, though we walk our own journeys. Because God is with us and all are made one, not with sameness or uniformity, but in the respect of our diversity and the sharing of it.

So, please, answer the question for yourself, too and, just as good teachers always ask: show your work.

4 responses to “Asking a Personal Question”

  1. Carrie J Domstad says:

    Jesus is Peace to me. The foundational peace in my life❤️

  2. Martha Esin says:

    Hi Nettie,

    Well I just listened to the service as I was on the road earlier today. I would have answered God incarnate which I think is pretty close to Emmanual :God with us.
    I have long thought we are both divine and human. I think that to be fully human, we need to understand we are also divine. Our yearnings and strivings are to be divine, I think. So the answers that were given (I did think everyone was well trained to respond) but the characteristics posited are those we yearn for and hope to find fulfilment of when we strive to be divine.

    I like the way he answered the question in the end. He did not actually take him on at all, but lead the answer back to where he is comfortable. I liked that he did not try to articulate the “otherness” of pantheism/buddism as that would be a complete deflection from what he is trying to say–the collectivism of our humanity and godness.
    I think the reason we have so much trouble with such an open-ended conception of God/Jesus is that we are all so trained to defer to figures of authority in the interpretation. It is ironical to me that Mennonites started off by rejecting the authority of the Church, emphasizing the individual relationship with God but then re-introduced authority under the instrument of the institutionalized community, known as the Church. We are trained in our secular education to defer to figures of authority, in our homes we must comply with parents’ authority to show our respect for them, democracy demands we vote for a small designated group of leaders etc.

    So I like what Robin is saying but it takes a lot more individual thought and study to leave the answer as a “becoming”, rather than as a “having arrived” by accepting the doctrine of the pulpits.

    • Robin King says:

      Thanks for your comment, Martha! I think it takes a lot – a lot! – of individual reflection on an ongoing basis. I particularly liked your expression of it as “a ‘becoming,’ rather than as a ‘having arrived.'” Thank you.

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