In Sunday’s gospel story, we had the famous pair of questions Jesus asks:
- Who do people say that I am?
- Who do you say that I am?
As I was writing about this idea for our parish newsletter, I realized something important. These two questions have two more hidden questions, or more precisely, two hidden suppositions. But first, the context.
Jesus is walking with His disciples and asks two overly simple questions. We may be tempted to read them as a simple poll of the crowd and of the disciples. I don’t think so, which informed what I preached about on Sunday. It is more likely that Jesus is asking the disciples to articulate their faith in light of the trials ahead. Since these questions come immediately before the transition from the countryside ministry to the march toward Jerusalem, we must read them in the context of discipleship.
So how do we do that? We examine what the questions get the disciples (and us) to do.
The first gets us to look at other people’s descriptions of Jesus, while the second presupposes we already have our own understanding, as we are being asked to articulate or “say” who Jesus is. It further implies that we are to say something about Jesus to someone else. Here are the two suppositions that are imbedded in the text:
- We listen to what others have to say about Jesus and form our understanding based on what others say and our own experience.
- We determine what we are going to say about Jesus and to whom.
In taking these two things for granted, Jesus is provoking us to also take as given that faith is formed in concert with personal and corporate experience, that we can articulate our faith in such a way as to communicate it to other people, and that communicating that faith is essential.
I don’t assume that this is the only way to read this text, but it feels like a provocative and consistent one with what Jesus is compelling His followers to do. And it is a message that so many of us need to hear.
Who do you say that Jesus is?