We are now into the season of Lent, a forty-day journey with Jesus that has been observed by Christians for nearly 2000 years. We know where the journey leads us—it leads to the cross, and later, to the empty tomb. All three of those—the journey, the cross, and the empty tomb—require us to ask ourselves the same question Jesus asked his followers toward the beginning of the journey: Who do you think I am? Our response to the question of who Jesus is will determine to a great extent the way we choose to live our lives in relation to God’s Kingdom. If Jesus is simply an inspiring religious figure who taught people to love one another (as many religious figures in history have), then the cross is nothing more than a reminder that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Another tendency we have to be aware of in answering that question is the tendency to see God in terms of their own life experience—their fears, their view of what the perfect life should be like, their culture, the point in history in which they live, etc. The fact that we see so much violence on the news and in our entertainment often makes people see Jesus as a representative of God whose kingdom will be established by eradicating evil people and those who are indifferent to God or religion. Our society tends to say that if you want something from someone, you have to do something for them first. So you may believe that you need to do something for God in order for God to really accept you.
Many people feel that the goal of being Jesus’ follower is to be “saved.” But for those of us who have been in the church for years, the question remains: “Great. So we’re saved. Now what?” Jesus wasn’t satisfied simply calling twelve disciples and then sending them on their way. He spent three years teaching and training them to respond to the reality that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, anointed by God to usher in God’s rule on the earth. But that truth was only meaningful if his followers truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Which brings us back to the question: Who do you say that Jesus is? Our forty-day walk with Jesus will confront us with that question time and time again. Be thoughtful about your answer. Your response will impact the way you understand the meaning of your life and your relationship with others. And it will most definitely influence your relationship with the creator of the universe. So enjoy Lent, and don’t be afraid of the hard questions.