Who Do You Say That I Am?

In the gospel lesson that will be read in many Episcopal church's next Sunday, Jesus asks the disciples, "who do you say that I am?" Last year in a class at Seabury called Gospel Mission, we were asked to answer that question. We came up with a list of adjectives, titles, etc. - the things we believe about Jesus - what we think about Jesus - what we've been taught about Jesus. Then, one of the professors (I think it was Dr. Yamada) said (my paraphrase here): "remember, evangelicals have an answer ready for this question." This discussion has been on my mind a lot since then.

A few weeks ago, I came back from an 8-day experience held in the Berkshires called The Quadrinity Process. One of the ground rules stipulated that we could not tell other retreatants our occupation (nor could we ask them about theirs). Think about this - when you meet someone for the first time, what do you usually discuss: What is your name? Where are you from? What do you do? Then, magically, we think we can answer the question, "who do you say that I am?" Interestingly, when someone asks us to tell them about ourselves, we respond with something like the following: My name is Debra. I am originally from Wausau, Wisconsin but I came to the Chicagoland area by way of Decorah, Iowa and Boston, Massachusetts. I am a full-time student at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. My 8-days in the Berkshires revealed my own inability to answer the question, "Who do I think that I am?" apart from these places and occupational attributes. The other 27 retreatants may have experienced the same. And, if we do not know who we are ourselves, how can we possibly be prepared to fully know who someone else is? or, equally important, how can we possibly be prepared to let someone else know us fully?

When Jesus asks, "Who do you say that I am?," I am amazed that one who knows me fully for who I am (not for what I do) is inviting me to know him as well - not by what he does or by where he is from, but for who he is at his essence. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it" (Psalm 139.6). Jesus is the one who knows who I am - even when I have least known myself.
"My God calls my name on the morning dew.
The Power of the Universe knows my name.
Gave me a song to sing and sent me on my way."
- Bernice Reagon Johnson, "I Remember, I Believe," Sacred Ground


Emily said…
Deb, this is such a good post on many levels. Because I think the more we only answer the question "who are you?" with what you do then we can only answer the questions "who is Jesus" with what we think he does for us.

When we can't answer the questions about who we are easily I think we also find our easy answers to who Jesus is falling apart.
Anonymous said…
Not to knitpick, but the proper question should be, "Whom do you say that I am?"
Frank said…
OH, this is good fodder for my sermon next Sunday. I am preaching on Exodus 3, when Moses asks for God's name. I am going to talk about identity and what we assume identity to be--both the identity of God and our identity as human beings.