Who Do You Say That I Am?


The question asked by Jesus’ disciples after the calming of the storm is the theological question all our theologies, ministries, life commitments and searches for meaning bring us to: Who is this? Who is this Jesus? He asks us Who do you say that I am?

In the three gospel accounts each writer frames the story and the question in his unique style but in such a way that the disclosure takes on a deep significance, for the witness of his life. They ask questions about sign and the event foretells another in which their understanding of who their Lord is will be sorely tested once more. In the death of their leader, left adrift upon the storm-tossed seas of political agitation and social upheaval in Jerusalem, not to mention a radical new way of seeing the old covenant turning into the new, their faith will undergo its greatest peril. And it will carry them across the greatest divide. In his death, Christ’s final ‘crossing over’ occurred. As the Mark and Luke stories are framed around images of seed and of spirits, so the Passion event of Jesus is about the seed, like the Word, slumbering in its depth, in order to awaken, overcoming the natural phenomenon of death and once for all freeing his disciples from the fear giving way to a holier (and more whole) more confident Spirit.

Upon the seas they could not run away; but from the rocky slopes of Calvary they ran, their fears keeping pace with them.  They went into hiding.  They still were unable to answer the question that shadowed/dogged their retreat: “Who do you say that I am?’  This question rings in each gospel story we read, in each explicable and inexplicable moment of our lives, in our approach to the holies of holies and in our flight from the invitation before which we feel ourselves unworthy. Even with a captive audience the Lord who commanded the seas could not command their understanding.  But he had captured their hearts and would return to be present to their sinking troubled spirits.

We study theology two thousand years later still trying to understand, asking questions of faith, searching the history, the stories, the artifacts, the language, the silence and the events of his life over and over again, from this perspective and that, just as the first disciples did after retreating from what they believed was the end of everything they believed, our own hearts captured just as theirs had been and our imaginations caught up by the risen Lord who is present in our little boats upon the thalasse and lailaps of theology and our searching with us.