Here’s a Thought for Feb. 24

What do you think of Jesus?

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30)

During my college and seminary preparation to become a pastor I was challenged to answer the question “What do you think of Jesus?” And once I answered that question, I was asked to support my answer with biblical and theological reasons for my belief.

In his book titled “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis attempts to answer the question “What do you think of Jesus? “when he writes: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him (Jesus); I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.

That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

As a former hospital chaplain I had the privilege of being a sojourner with patients in the midst of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual sufferings. We had the opportunity to talk about where was God or Jesus in the midst of their pains and terminal conditions. Often their first questions were “Why is God mad or angry with me?” “Why is he punishing me with this disease or physical pains?” We talked about those real feelings of despair and guilt they felt.

I would inquire what kind of image or mental picture of God they had. Some would reply Jesus the Good Shepherd, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus dying on the cross, or God sitting on a golden throne in heaven. I would challenge them to explain how their image of God would bring them comfort in the midst of their pains and sufferings.

Often their answers revealed their relationship with God. Some revealed they felt he was distant, others felt he was their heavenly Father, while others needed time to ponder on what kind of relationship they once had but now questioned what they thought of God or Jesus.

During this 2018 Lententide, we are challenged answer this question: “What do you think of Jesus?” With the Apostle Peter may we respond: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16) Amen.

Chopp is a chaplain emeritus, MDiv, BCC, from Marshall