It’s the craziest thing when you see someone who looks like someone else from some place else in a place they shouldn’t be found.
When we moved to Italy across the ocean, across culture and language, the ghost of my USA neighbor seemed to be in the face of Franco. The imprint of my best friend laughed in the delight of Anna, and the strangest of all was my Aunt speaking perfect Italian from the lips of Claudia.
Our minds pull us to what we are familiar with. We long for comfortable, and we fall into the rut of what we know.
As I walk around a subdivision behind our new home in Virginia, almost without fail I meet a man on a mission. He walks faster than my legs have ever run. Head slightly bent, arms pumping he circles the circle I circle three times to my huffing and puffing once.
He has the same mustache as Don from Kansas City, wears the same knit hat and by George if he doesn’t have the same wave and smile as he sails by.
I’ve come to announce his arrival inside my head as I see him hoofing toward me as “Don.”
“Oh here comes Don again,” I say to self.
I’ve never met him yet.
For quite some time I’ve wondered how my psyche might handle it if I discovered he is a Fred, Sam or Harold.
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” Jesus asked his disciples in Luke 9:18 (ESV).
Popular opinion or word on the street, according to Jesus’ response ran the gamut from John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
“But who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked them.
And here Jesus gets personal.
Corrie ten Boom quotes her father Casper ten Boom having said, “A mouse might be in a cookie jar…but he is not a cookie.” A Don might be in Virginia, his name might even be Don, but he is not the Don of Kansas City.
Sooner or later Jesus can’t be someone you’ve heard about, or who you make Him out to be, not even Who you think He should be or expect Him to be. He can no longer just be who the people say He is, and He certainly may not be the comfortable image to which you default.
But He is without question, The great I Am.
“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Matthew 16:16 (ESV).
The disciples had seen Jesus heal sick, raise dead and still storms. They had even been sent out and done miracles themselves in His name. Yet Jesus continued to press them to commit themselves to His true identity.
The future would test their image of a triumphant king and Healer. They would be called on to declare Him the Righter of all wrong even when injustice seemed to exult. In fact, Jesus would soon appear to be silenced, discredited and conquered.
“Who is Jesus” must get personal if it will stand the test of time, the waves of storm, or the tide of popular opinion.
If a feel-good-message-Jesus, the spectacular-signs-Jesus, or the traditional-religious-figure-Jesus leaves you disappointed, maybe it’s because you expect Him to be someone He is not. He is always so much more.
God’s Word, His infallible speech, anchors the answer to Jesus’ question.
As much as the marathon walker reminds me of Don back home, he is not nor will ever be Don of KC. There is only one Don of the stirpe I know. Truth will begin to deconstruct my Don of memory. Fred, Sam or Harold will begin to give way to the real identity of the man I’ve assumed him to be once I get to know him.
Jesus of the Bible, the One who does the unexpected in surprising ways, does not disappoint. The more we learn of Him, the better acquainted we are with “the Christ the Son of the Living God.”
The more we recognize He is exactly Who He claims to be, the better we know He is in fact in every way, Who He should be. With truth as a foundation, we more readily bow to His will knowing it is perfect, and the images we’ve created fade.
- Paul affirms this in Romans 5:10 when he penned, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
- John acknowledged it. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (ESV)
- Jesus confirmed it. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (ESV)
Who do you say that I am?
It’s the Easter season. What better time to linger on Jesus’ question to the disciples?
Its gonna get personal. If it hasn’t, it must.