Over the years there have been many questions raised regarding the character and nature of Jesus Christ. By the fourth century A.D. leaders in the church had begun to question the relationship between Jesus and the Father. The dilemma was whether Jesus was of the same substance as the Father, and if so, how could he also be man; was his divine nature somehow compromised in the incarnation? In the year 325 the Council of Nicea combated the Arian controversy and introduced an extra-biblical word, homoousian, which they believed correctly conveyed the heart of the Scriptures. As a result, the Nicene Creed came to read that Jesus was “the only-begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”
Centuries later, we are faced with a similar question; who do we –the contemporary Church – say Jesus is? There are a variety of ways we’ve answered this fundamental question. In the minds some, Jesus is their “Ticket to Heaven” or their “Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Card.” These people acknowledge Jesus’ existence, but knowing Him has no real bearing on their lives. Others see Jesus as a sort of “Heavenly Sugar Daddy” who gives people whatever they want just as long as they promise to be his companions. Others view Jesus as merely a good teacher and moral person who lived a few thousand years ago. Still others embrace him as an acclaimed miracle worker, whose resurrection was not physical but spiritual. They may agree that Jesus lives today, but only in the spiritual sense. Although at first glance these may come across as dramatic generalization, the truth of the matter is that our Christology seems to be slipping away from its Scriptural origins. If the substance of our relationship with Christ is made up of owning a pink Cadillac and living in million-dollar mansions, than can we really claim to know who Christ is? Even an elementary reading of the Scriptures would lead us to believe that by and large we’ve missed the point of who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him.
In the Gospel of Luke we find the famous discourse between Jesus and Peter. After asking the disciples who the crowds thought he was, Jesus asked them, “Who do you say I am?” (Lk 9:20). Peter is recorded as responding first and his reply is remarkable. His answer is short, yet revolutionary: “The Christ of God” (Lk 9:20). Whether or not Peter’s answer substantiates the formation of the papacy, is beside the point. The point is that Peter had a moment of revelation; he got it! His answer was not stumbled upon by some magical formula or by an intellectual exercise, but by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. His eyes were opened and Peter was able to see Jesus for who he was; the Messiah; the Savior King; the Son of the Living God. Certainly the dept of this revelation grew throughout Peter’s life, but in that initial moment his worldview began a dramatic shift.
Like Peter, we are in dire need of a Spirit birthed revelation when we it comes to the question of who is Jesus Christ. Namely because “You are the Christ of God,” comes as a difficult pill to swallow for us who live in the center of consumer culture, where things like comfort, material wealth, individualism and image are among our most important pursuits. It has become a norm to equate a relationship with Christ with a life of financial freedom and prosperity. Furthermore, we have been sold a Gospel that links God’s best for us or the sign of God’s blessing in our life with a big paycheck. The marketing strategy of today’s Christology has been handcuffed to a checking account with a large ending balance. Can we really say that we know who Christ is when we have dissociated suffering and self-sacrifice from following Christ? Following Christ is by no means a call to masochism, but since when has taking up one’s cross been a call to a life of comfort and luxury (Lk 9:23)?
Truthfully, “You are the Christ of God” leaves no room for narcissism. It implies a total shift in our values, pursuits, and what we deem as important in life. It demands that we realize the supremacy of Christ in every area of our life, and when we do all titles, positions, accolades, degrees, and our greatest achievements pale in comparison with the Light of the world. To respond like Peter, means that a radical shift takes place within our heart; we move from self to servant. This uprising in the human soul becomes the bedrock of our new identity. In that moment of revelation there is complete abandonment to self, total surrender to the person of Jesus Christ, and the emergence of childlike faith in our Lord. It propels us to live a life of love and gives us the courage follow Christ even if it includes poverty and discomfort.