Who do you think you are?

30 12 2011

There’s something surprisingly emotional about finding out about our ancestors, as evidenced in the popular TV programme Who do you think you are?

Many people begin with a vague curiosity and end up with a compulsion to find their roots. The programme researchers help them find out who they are.

Matthew is our researcher about who Jesus is.

Jesus’ roots go right back to Abraham, the accredited father of the Jewish nation. Matthew establishes Jesus’ connections with everything that has gone before and alludes to the Old Testament more that any other gospel writer. His original readers are primarily Jewish – he doesn’t need to explain Jewish customs and he uses Jewish terminology. He, like Paul, wants to provide evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah. But Matthew also makes it clear that the good news of Jesus is for everybody – he begins with the Jews and ends with “all nations.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In Matthew’s opinion Jesus, the Saviour, is Emmanuel – God with us.

But there is doubt about Jesus’ identity and his credentials even amongst his followers (16:13-16) and strong emotions amongst those who listen to him, which in the end lead to his death (26:65 and Luke 23:6-12).

If you listen to the song you will hear Herod’s verdict – “Get out of my life.”

It’s a common response.

I’m haunted, however, by Jesus’ question to his followers -“But who do you say I am?” The answer carries life-changing implications.


Identity crisis?

11 08 2011

I’ve just been watching a TV programme in which the boss of a company went undercover to find out what life was like for his employees on the shop floor.  He had to pretend in order to get honest information from the workforce, but at times it was difficult to keep up the act. Towards the end of the programme, he called in the people he had worked alongside and revealed his true identity.  One worker was acutely embarrassed – a real “open the ground and let me disappear” moment; another expressed appreciation for the boss’s efforts to understand the workings of the company.  For all, what had happened slowly began to make sense and change resulted.

The question of Jesus’ identity is raised a number of times in Luke chapters 8 and 9 by different people playing for high stakes –

  • The disciples ask – “Who is this man?” (Luke 8:25)  They have been following Jesus for some time, but they still don’t really know who he is or what they’ve let themselves in for
  • Herod Antipas asks the same question – “Who is this man?” (Luke 9:9) He feels threatened by this miracle worker who has appeared in his vicinity
  • The demon doesn’t ask; he knows who Jesus is, “Jesus, Son of the most high God” (Luke 8:28)

By chapter 9, some of the identity issues are beginning to make sense so when Jesus asks the question, Peter at least is ready.  Here’s the context –

“One day as Jesus was alone, praying, he came over to his disciples and asked them, ‘Who do people way I am?’ 

‘Well,’ they replied, ‘some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.’

Then he asked them, ‘Who do you say I am?’”

It’s the big identity question – bigger that our 21st century obsession with the individual’s, “Who am I?” 

And how we answer changes everything.

“ Peter answered – ‘You are the Messiah sent from God!’”

What am I like…really?

21 04 2011

With the build up to the royal wedding next week there has been a plethora of lookalike opportunities in the media for those who want to pretend to be someone else.  Some of the results are harmless fun, others in bad taste.  Here’s one you may have missed.



I’ve lived long enough to think I know myself pretty well, but I was brought up short last week by an incident that showed me up for what I’m really like.  A friend phoned and said some unkind and untrue things to me out of the blue.  It was a difficult conversation and I was left feeling hurt and angry.  The next day she left a message apologising for what she had said.  I had already forgiven her (or so I thought) but just listening to the answerphone prompted the anger to rise again.  Then I thought, ‘I won’t phone her back yet, I’ll let her stew for a bit, let her wonder if I will still be her friend, make her feel really sorry.’  I was shocked at my response and even more angry, not about what my friend had said, but at the bad attitudes that the whole incident had exposed in me.  My expectations for myself were challenged and found wanting.


I think it was a bit like that for Simon Peter in the section of Luke I’ve been reading this week.  He’s right in there, ready to follow Jesus no matter what – “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” (Luke 22:33)  His opportunity to show his determination comes when the soldiers arrive to arrest Jesus and Peter swings his sword in attack.  But all too soon he is following at a distance, until the agonising moments when he denies that he knows Jesus.  He had great expectations for himself as a follower.  How quickly they were dashed under pressure.  He is not the person he thought he was;he is a lookalike disciple.

Tom Wright reflects on this poignant story –

“We sign on to follow Jesus, and we really mean it…Beginnings are always exciting, if daunting; the midday heat, or the midnight weariness, can drain away our intentions, our energy, our enthusiasm. Few if any Christians will look down on Peter and despise him.  Most of us will think; yes, that’s what it’s like.”

That’s what I’m like…really.

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