One of the most important questions Jesus ever asked was
“But who do you say that I am?”
In Matthew, Mark and Luke this is his follow-up after asking his disciples what the crowds said about him.
Everyone who tries to figure out what to do about Christianity has to ask this same question. We have come up with a lot of answers. Pioneering Christian rocker Larry Norman offered a bunch of them in his 1972 song “The Outlaw”:
Some say he was an outlaw … a poet … a sorcerer … a politician … the Son of God …
Most of those answers, and most of the others that get bounced around in conversation, just have to do with what he did. His actions that seemed lawless; his words sounded poetic; that doesn’t touch the deeper question of what he was.
Christianity has a concise answer to that question. Paradoxical and mysterious as well, but each part of the paradox is quite clear.
- Jesus is truly God
- Jesus is truly human
- Jesus is just one person.
I was blogging on the Trinity recently and talked about the Son of God as the Second Person of the Trinity, just as much God as the Father is God — and just as much as the Holy Spirit for that matter.
I imagine some might read about that and think I was going too far — as if saying Jesus is God meant leaving behind his humanity. The point, though, is that both are essential: Jesus, born of Mary, is this very Son of God.
It has always been much easier to emphasize just one side of the puzzle. If you could get the Christians you know to articulate their thoughts about Jesus,
- many would say things about his humanity — maybe they can relate to him because he is a real human person;
- many would say things about his deity — maybe that he can solve their problems because his is really God.
How many would say strongly that he is truly human and truly divine? I suspect that many Christians connect with Jesus halfway because they only consider the side of the paradox they find helpful.
The Heidelberg Catechism brings the topic up as the answer to our deepest problem. After spending a few questions exploring how we have made a mess of our lives and can’t fix it on our own, this classic summary of biblical teaching asks us
15. Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?
A. One who is a true and righteous human, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.
The word to think about is “mediator.” That assumes that there is a conflict. The courts send in a mediator during a strike when labor and management can’t come to agreement on their own. Or when spouses or neighbors are fighting it out. A mediator stands in the middle, able to understand both sides.
Jesus is able to be a mediator because he understands both sides from the inside.
He is God. He is human. He gets it.
When you think about who Jesus is what descriptions come to mind most powerfully? Why do you think it matters?
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