From Richard Roberts
Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
“Who do you say that I am?” This is the question that Jesus asked His disciples after feeding the 5,000 and investigating what other people had been calling him. Others had been trying to fit him into their fathomable categories, even strange categories which implied some kind of miraculous reincarnation or resurrection or translation of being (Why would they think that he was Elijah or John the Baptist, both of whom were dead?).
This is still a very pertinent question, the question, if we are honest. Because if Jesus is who the New Testament presents Him to be, then nothing else matters. However, if He is not who the New Testament presents Him to be, then none of it matters. In particular, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we are still in our sins, said Paul, and are to be the most pitied of all people.
So, how one answers this questions is paramount, not only to our experience right now (which it surely is), but also to our understanding and participation in truth and reality for all of eternity.
And what is true throughout history is also true within our own hearts: we are prone to attempt, sometimes consciously, but almost always unconsciously, to force Jesus into a mold which reflects our own desires, the desires and hopes and fears of our own hearts. But, what the Scriptures show us is that He simply will not fit. He requires new wineskins (Luke 5), because the old ones will burst at the expansive majesty of His person and works.
Jesus corrects all of our hearts, no matter where you may lie on the political spectrum or philosophical or economic theories. He has things which He would praise every man for and things for which he would condemn every man. He is unique and uniquely capable to expose the dark corners of our hopes and fears for their idolatry, but it is usually these which we seek to alter in Him, to reshape and reform.
The gospel writer Luke, the doctor, makes great efforts in his telling of the gospel to reveal the absolute authority of Jesus. He has authority over Creation, evidenced by stilling the storms (Luke 8) and curing physical illnesses (Luke 4). He has authority over the spiritual realm, evidenced by casting out demons (Luke 8). He has authority over the meaning of the Scriptures, as evidenced by the manner by he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” (Matt 5; Luke 12)
Therefore, we must recognize and repudiate that inherent pull within us to try and fit Him into our value system, or into our interpretations, or into our “understanding” of the world. Rather, we have it backwards. We must fit our understanding of the world into the interpretation given by the Resurrected One, the one with authority over death itself. While our circumstances today are strange to our experience and feel two-sizes too big for our mind’s grasp, we must reject the lie that we need to fit Jesus into them, or define our understanding of Him by our experiences.
For example, many people redefine Jesus to be only human because they don’t see miracles as possible. Others redefine Jesus to be only divine because they see a weeping or hungry Jesus as too weak to help them. Others redefine Jesus to be only a Jewish prophet, or sage, or teacher of ethical good, but not as a representative to redeem us before God by His own merit. Others reject His mercy towards sinners (those sinners, anyway, not like me) and others reject His wrath towards the unjust (because I am surely not unjust).
But, within the Church, I think that the most common pitfall into which we may stumble is the subtle lie that “Jesus wouldn’t do it that way…” in regards to our suffering and pain and grief and loss in this world. It is when we lose dearly that we question the heart of Jesus or the capability of Jesus. And, in our grief, we are deceived into thinking that it is our judgment of good/bad, right/wrong, beautiful/worthless, that is paramount.
Donald Coggan, former archbishop of Canterbury, told a story (although he was unable to remember its origin):
"There was a sculptor once, so they say, who sculpted a statue of our Lord. And people came from great distances to see it – Christ in all his strength and tenderness. They would walk all round the statue, trying to grasp its splendor, looking at it now from this angle, now from that. Yet still its grandeur eluded them, until they consulted the sculptor himself. He would invariably reply, ‘There’s only one angle from which this statue can be truly seen. You must kneel.’” (quoted in John Stott’s, The Incomparable CHRIST, p251)
So must we kneel to the revelation of Jesus in ALL that God has revealed to us, His authority, His kindness, His mercy, His judgments, His humble initial arrival and His authoritative and triumphant second arrival to come in which He will judge all who reject Him and seek to harm His people. He is the resurrection and the life, the way upon which we walk true life, the door to God’s welcome, the shepherd of His sheep, the King over His people, the Lamb who atones for their sin, the hope of the nations, the King over kings and Lord over lords, the Alpha and Omega, the Word of God, the cornerstone of God’s redeemed people, the foundation upon which God builds His dwelling place, the Truth. As Peter answered his question, “You are the Messiah.”
So, let us strive to read our times through the lens of Christ, to interpret our experiences by His word rather than His word by our experiences, for He is the Christ.