‘Who do people say I am?’ Jesus asked His disciples. In Mark 8:27-29, He’s on the way in to a community of villages with His team, and He asks them to sum up what people round these parts say about what comes to mind when they hear the name ‘Jesus.’
And the thing is, the disciples know the answer to this one. They’ve heard the rumours and the different ideas floating about. ‘Maybe He’s John the Baptist… maybe He’s Elijah… maybe He’s one of the prophets…’ Round their way, people had differing ideas about who this Jesus of Nazareth was.
But these different ideas had one thing in common. They pictured Jesus as someone who had come to change everything, and set things the way that God wanted them to be. John the Baptist, Elijah, the prophets… they all preached that people needed to change direction and head a new way with God as King.
Here’s what I hear people say about Jesus round our way. ‘He’s a great moral teacher… He’s someone I want my kids to learn from (not, I noticed, someone that their parents want to learn from)… I think Jesus is whoever we want Him to be…’ That last one especially sums up what I’m hearing people say about Jesus in suburban Inverness. He’s not someone who breaks in to our lives to lead them in a new direction with God as King. He’s someone who either fits in or doesn’t with what we’re up to, and we can take or leave Him.
Of course, Jesus doesn’t leave it there on His walk with His team. ‘But what about you?’ He asked them. ‘Who do you say I am?’
There’s a directness there that forces the disciples to find the words. If they’d never really thought about it before, they had to now. It was the catalyst for the moment that Peter would famously say it out loud: Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ.’
I know what people round our way say about who Jesus is, because I ask them. ‘Who do you say Jesus is?’ Neighbours. Friends at the school gate. People we’ve worked with in our Go For It project, as we’ve sought to nurture faith in Jesus both in and out of the church. It’s amazing the responses it provokes. Everything from, ‘Whoever you want Him to be’ to ‘Oh… I’ve never thought about that before’ (and you can see in their eyes that they are going to now).
One or two of those people who once looked caught out by the question are now in our church declaring ‘He is the Christ.’ Along with meals, love, preaching, service, sharing life and pursuing Kingdom building things in Go For It projects; one of the most effective tools for nurturing faith has been that simple question. The question that Jesus first asked some fishermen in a project team with Him on a walk to some villages. ‘Who do you say I am?’
As a Church, and as Go For It projects, we may meet identified community needs; tackle injustice; develop new ecclesial communities and do things so innovative they are worth modelling and sharing. But through it all, in our lives and our projects, we’ll keep nurturing faith in Jesus by asking people who they say He is, until they discover that He is the great ‘I AM’ Himself.
About the Author
Rev Scott McRoberts is minister at Inverness: St. Columba (New Charge Development).
The church is using a Go For It Main Grant to decrease isolation among parents of young children, through their Connections project, which provides Groups to enable parents and young children to increase their social connections and confidence in parenting, and explore Christianity in a meaningful way.
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