Who do you say I am; how would we answer the question
“Who do you say that I am?”
In this weekend’s Gospel (Lk 9:18-24), Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Someone says “John the Baptist,” another suggests “Elijah,” or some other prophet. Then Jesus looks at them and asks, “But who do you say that I am?”
If you were standing in front of Jesus and he asked the question of you, what would your answer be? My experience has been that we either tend to have a vague and fuzzy picture of our Lord in our heads or the neatly drawn picture we’ve created is one of our own making, complete with complexion, height, eye color and hair style.
Quickly now, close your eyes. How do you really picture the face of Jesus?
“Who do you say that I am?”
I’m not sure Jesus was looking for accolades or acknowledgement that the disciples knew he was the Son of God. In fact, when Peter replies, “The Christ of God,” Jesus scolds him and tells the group not to repeat it to anyone.
So what was Jesus looking for in his question? I use that seven-word question as a jumping off point for reflection quite a bit.
I wonder if Jesus was asking us to throw away our nearsightedness – our tendency to form Jesus in our own likeness – and rather, seek his face in others, but also, to make sure that when others look us in the eye, they see the face of Jesus looking back.
How do we do that? How can we do that if we haven’t taken the time to form a close, personal relationship with the Lord? It’s not easy. As with all close relationships, it takes work on the part of both parties. Jesus is more than eager to do his part, but understand, God will never force God’s self on us. God does, however, comes into our lives eagerly when we open ourselves up to the possibilities.
When Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” he’s asking us to take a good look, to build an intimate relationship with him. And through him, we find a direct route to our Father God.
During his time on earth, Jesus responded to the hurts, hopes, and fears of those around him. He invites us to understand who he was – who he is – and encounter the people around us through his eyes. Recognizing the face of Christ in those we serve is not reserved for a hardy select few. It holds true for each and every person baptized into the faith. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
Life in Christ is meant to be a ministry. Jesus has placed his sacred trust in the hope that we will continue his work on earth. This isn’t a linear action that grows smaller as our years go by; rather, it’s circular. The more we work to find the face of Jesus in others – to be able to answer, “Who do you say that I am?” - the more we become that face of Christ. This is the definition of Christian hospitality: finding the face of Christ in others and, in turn, becoming the face of Christ.
Sounds like a lot of work, you might say. But here’s the thing, at the very core of this notion of Christian hospitality – being Christ-like – is the love of God. This is a love that is so great, God wanted to share it with us and did so through his Son Jesus.
We are called to do no less.
In Hebrews 13:1-2, we read: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without know it.” Just as Jesus became a gift to humankind, we are asked to become that gift to others. In the word “Christian,” there’s no room for hatred, grudges, prejudices or, perhaps the worst, indifference.
Being the face of Christ to others is our destiny. Jesus is asking us to strive to be so much like him that people cannot tell the difference; that if he asked the question today – “Who do you say that I am?” – the answer would be Bob, Mary, Joe, Kathy, Marie, Mike . . .