“Who is Jesus to you?”
It’s a good question. It has to be—Jesus himself asked it of his disciples in Mark 8. That chapter is one I have kept coming back to over the past few years, and I returned to it again as I prepared to answer this question from a reader on my About page. It was difficult to read—it always is, because I see myself in Mark 8.
I’m there from the very beginning. I’m there with the disciples who are perplexed about food only two chapters after Jesus had fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish—do they not have reason to trust? I’m there with the Pharisees who ask for a sign from heaven—is what they have already seen not enough? I’m there again with the disciples once more concerned about loaves of bread, and I can deeply sense Jesus’ frustration in his words to them—“Don’t you remember what you’ve seen me do? Are you really this dense?” (my own paraphrase). I’m there with the blind man whose friends brought him to Jesus when he couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t) go there himself—my friends have remained beside me even in my darkness, and my healing has also been gradual.
And I’m there when Jesus asks the ultimate question—the question that has left my steady faith in a tailspin. “Who do you say that I am?”
Who is Jesus to me?
There was once a time when I answered the question the way Peter did—he is the Christ, the Messiah. Will I ever again have a one-line answer to this question? I currently do not, and that is why this is a post instead of a comment under my reader’s question.
Dear reader, I cannot say with confidence that Jesus is the Christ. What I can say is that I place my hope in something far greater than I am—my brother would call it “the universe.” I think I would call it “God,” even though I have not yet heard a well-established God-claim that I can believe in. And although I don’t know exactly who Jesus is to me or even who he should be to me, I feel that it is through Jesus that I am able to better understand who God is. Did he exist? I think so, although I believe that some of the claims that he did not are thoughtful and worth considering. Was he somehow both God and man? I do not know—but the idea that he was paints a picture of a God who made a way for me to know him. Did he give his life for me? I do not know, but I’m not offended by the example he provides and his call to come and die—there is so much in me that needs to die. And does he live today? I do not know—but if He is alive then the Word is alive, and I am not bound to the scriptural interpretations of other people from another world that sometimes point me to a God I could never worship. Like the blind man in Mark 8 who encountered Jesus, I see something—it’s just not quite clear.
A believing friend who knows of my struggle told me several weeks ago to not be lukewarm like the Church in Laodicea in Revelation 3—it is better to either accept Christ or reject him. I disagree with the unspoken conclusion my friend had come to—that my undecided heart is lukewarm. I was too emotionally exhausted to argue that night. A lukewarm heart is complacent. Although I am undecided about who Jesus is to me, I am not complacent. That’s why I’m here—it’s why I write. My heart burns within me; it is zealous, and its door is wide open even before the knock that I wait for. I pass through it to love the unlovely, and I allow in even those who hurt me. I listen for the voice of Jesus and often think I sense it…and then I’m reminded to fact-check with scripture, and I just don’t know any more. The letter to the Church in Laodicea ends with the words “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
We see similar wording back in Mark 8: “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?”
Having eyes do you not see…
I told you that I see myself in the blind man in Mark 8. In Mark 10, I find myself again—this time in Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. He cried out to Jesus, begging for mercy—oh, I’m there. Some rebuked him—and I’ve felt that, too. But he wasn’t lukewarm, and their rebuke made his fire burn hotter as he begged for mercy again. Finally he heard the precious words, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” Just typing that made me cry.
And then came the question—that glorious question. This same incarnate God had asked two chapters before, “Who do you say that I am?” And knowing who he was—knowing the full extent of the impact of this collision between the greatest of great and the lowest of low—he humbly asks this man a different question.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
I saw myself in a blind man whose healing didn’t come all at once—who could see something, but only dimly at first.
I saw myself in disciples who faced the question, “Who do you say that I am?”—a question that came after they demonstrated their own form of blindness and failure to remember what Christ had done.
I saw myself in a blind man who lacked sight, but not fervor—a man who begged for mercy until Jesus called for him and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
And oh, I see myself in his answer to that question as my heart echoes these words:
“Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
So who is Jesus to me, dear reader? I can’t quite see clearly enough to tell you—I see something, but I’m waiting for more. In the mean time, I respond to your question from Mark 8 with the hope of Mark 10. Until my eyes can see, my ears are waiting to hear the words “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” My ears are longing to hear the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” I have my answer ready: Rabbi, I want to see.
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12