Who Do You Say I Am?

Who do you say I am

This is the final post in the series looking at questions Jesus asked, and today we come to what is probably the most important question of all.

Who do you say I am?  (Mark 8:29 NLT)

Throughout this series we have looked at a lot of what the Bible has to say about Jesus:

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?- He wants us to come to him with our requests and to have faith in his power.

Do You Want To Get Well?- He has power to heal and he wants us to cooperate with his work.

How Much Bread Do You Have?- He wants us to give what we have and, even though it seems completely inadequate humanly speaking, he is able to do amazing things with it when we do.

Who Touched My Robe?- He notices and cares for each of us individually, he offers even greater healing than we’d ever have imagined and he calls us out of hiding to testify about his grace.

Can Worry Add To Your Life?- He cares about our worries and wants to defeat them by his perfect love.

Do You Believe That I Am Able To Do This?- He wants us to believe that his power is for now, for us, for our situation.

Why Have You Abandoned Me?- He experienced abandonment so that we don’t have to.  He understands pain and suffering and allows us to be honest about our struggles.

Why Are You Crying?- He cares for us in our times of sorrow.

The question each of us has to answer at some point though is, “Who do you say I am?”

It’s not just about what we were taught as children or what people have told us.  It’s about the conclusions we reach for ourselves and how we respond to Jesus.

I was learning this week about a faith development theory by John Westerhoff.  It identifies four stages of faith:

  1. Experienced Faith- A child is brought up in a particular faith tradition or community.  They may experience things like prayer and hearing Bible stories.  Because that is what they are brought up with, that is all they know.
  2. Affiliative Faith- The child sees themselves as part of that faith community.  They choose to take part in its activities and they feel like they belong.
  3. Searching Faith- Unfortunately many people never move on to this stage.  For those who do, it is usually from adolescence onwards.  This stage involves searching and questioning- moving beyond a blind faith which automatically accepts what they’ve been taught, to seek answers for themselves.
  4. Owned Faith- A mature faith that has been thought through and that is lived out- impacting the person’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour.

If this model is accurate, then searching and questioning is necessary for a mature faith to develop.  I believe it is, and it saddens me when people are left feeling they can’t ask questions, when conversations are shut down and issues are left unexplored.

Of course, reaching a mature faith is an ongoing process and that is illustrated well by looking at the character of Peter in Mark 8.

Following a miraculous feeding of thousands of people and a conversation with some Pharisees, Jesus and his disciples are in a boat, crossing the lake.  Jesus is trying to talk about spiritual matters but the disciples are fixated on the fact that they only have one loaf of bread.  Jesus is frustrated at their lack of understanding and fires a series of questions at them:

“Why are you arguing about having no bread?  Don’t you know or understand even yet?  Are your hearts too hard to take it in?  You have eyes- can’t you see?  You have ears- can’t you hear?  Don’t you remember anything at all?”  (Mark 8:17-18 NLT)

Later though, Peter shows that he is beginning to get it.  After mentioning opinions other people have about Jesus, he is asked directly, “Who do you say I am?” and he replies, “You are the Messiah.”  (Mark 8:29 NLT)

Unfortunately this great statement of faith is followed up by another moment that reveals his lack of understanding.  Jesus talks about how he will suffer and die and Peter tells him to stop saying these things, earning himself a rebuke from Jesus: “You are seeing things from a human point of view, not from God’s.”  (Mark 8:33 NLT)

In the middle of these incidents is a curious story of a blind man healed by Jesus.  It is different from the rest of Jesus’ miracles because the healing is not instant.  The first time Jesus lays his hands on the man’s eyes he receives partial sight.  It is only after Jesus touches him a second time that Mark reports “His eyes were opened.  His sight was completely restored and he could see everything clearly.”  (Mark 8:25 NLT)

Could this be a parallel to Peter’s story and the gradual opening of his spiritual eyes to see who Jesus is?  As with the blind man he begins to see; his sight is restored, but it is imperfect.

I think it’s true for all of us.  Jesus opens our eyes and we begin to see.  As we search and question and explore, we gain insight and understanding but our sight remains incomplete.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”  (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

It encourages me that growth in faith and understanding is gradual.  It challenges me that there is always more to learn.  It prompts me to keep asking questions, to keep exploring, to keep discovering more of who Jesus is and to stay open to his transforming power.

  Kristin Hill Taylor - Porch Stories  Holly Barrett     purposefulfaith.com             

    

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32 thoughts on “Who Do You Say I Am?

  1. Great post, Lesley.

    Interesting forme, the title, because I remarked to my wife this evening that loss of identity is perhaps a hallmark of terminal illness.

    There’s a common expression to explain away one’s behaviour…”Well, you know ME.”

    It’s one I can never use, because I don’t now me. And I wonder if I ever did.

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/04/your-dying-spouse-301-red-road-home.html

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your insights, Andrew. I think that’s true- we think we know ourselves but as different situations come up we might respond in ways that surprise us and make us realise we don’t know ourselves as well as we think.

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  2. I’m intrigued by those 4 stages of faith you outline here. This is helpful to me as I wrestle with helping my young adult kids grow/investigate their own faith. It’s almost a daily topic around here. 🙂

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  3. You have left us with a lot of food for thought. The four stages are ones that I can relate to and I know that I will never reach “owned faith” completely because I am always growing. I was just talking to someone about the importance of asking questions and how we need to allow others to do that. We also need to continue to ask questions so we can grow in our faith. Thank you for this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, we should never think we’ve “arrived” when it comes to faith. There is always more to learn and more growing to do. And I think questions are a key part of that so it’s important that we continue asking questions and allow others to do the same.

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  4. You have such thought-provoking insight in these questions, Lesley. I have sometimes wondered why the blind man was not healed immediately as surely Jesus could do. And I never thought of how it is sandwiched between the gradual growth of Peter’s faith. Thank you for your thoughts on this. It makes such sense now. It’s so true that our really knowing Jesus is a process of continual learning. With you, I want “to keep asking questions, to keep exploring, to keep discovering more of who Jesus is and to stay open to his transforming power.” Love and hugs to you!

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    1. I’m glad you found it thought-provoking, Trudy. I only discovered that insight about the blind man story last week when I heard someone talk about how the order of the stories in the Gospels can be important and they’re not just put together randomly. That chapter was an example they asked us to look at. I’ll be interested to look at other passages in this way. As you say, we’re always learning. Love and hugs to you!

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  5. Lesley, this has been an enlightening series. I hadn’t really thought about the four stages of faith as such, but with my boys entering the teen years, I pray for them to come to a place where they own their faith. They’ve grown up with the truth of God’s word, but neither has yet embraced it for themselves. I know it’s a process. I keep praying that they will ask the hard questions (of the right people) and receive the answers that will unlock the truth in their hearts.

    And, I agree with what Mary said, I don’t think I’ll ever completely master “owned faith” because I’m continually growing and being conformed into Jesus’ image. 🙂

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    1. I’m glad you found the series helpful, Jeanne. It is important that we all find places we can ask the hard questions. And I agree, learning and growing is a continual process. We’ll never reach the point, here on earth, where we have it all sorted.

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  6. “I believe it is, and it saddens me when people are left feeling they can’t ask questions, when conversations are shut down and issues are left unexplored.” I agree with you here. I think that is one reason people aren’t able to move forward. God isn’t afraid of our questions no matter how hard they are. And when we discourage the searching by questions, it can also discourage a person from seeking more.

    Blessings to you! Have a great week!

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    1. This is so true. I know people who have been put off from having anything to do with God because they weren’t allowed to question. So true that God isn’t scared by our questions and we shouldn’t be either.

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  7. An interesting model of our faith walk, Lesley. And the series has been top-notch. Wise questions, asked with tenderness, surely must be the key to unlocking another’s heart.

    Blessings to you today, friend …

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  8. You know i have enjoyed this series! It’s brilliant and you hàve unearth some of these silent questions. Thanks for the list of faith development.
    I do say it is important to keep growing and not be stagnated
    God bless, Leslie

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  9. Hi Lesley! I am always so encouraged by the faith life of Peter. He was chosen to lead the Apostles, and yet his faith was always a work in progress until the Holy Spirit came.
    I agree with the steps to faith you have here too. My dad used to tell me that everyone comes to their own personal faith wall…will they accept as an adult, or remain in a spiritual childhood?
    I think I decided to take on the Lord as an adult in college. Maybe that’s late in my life, but that’s when it happened for me. May we all find our ‘faith wall’ and then find a way to burst through.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. I like the description of a “faith wall.” I think that’s true. Whatever age it happens, we reach that point andbit either stops us moving on any further or we burst through into a faith that is growing and flourishing.

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  10. I can identify and relate to those 4 stages. Peter is a great example for so many things. His fierce love and his denial shortly after he proclaimed that allegiance to Christ. But Peter didn’t give up. I suspect even when he didn’t understand and his questions grew, his faith was bigger than his fears. Or maybe I just relate to him a little more 😉

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  11. I agree with you, Lesley. It’s so sad when people feel shamed for having questions. Because while we don’t always get the answers we’re looking for. Asking questions draws us closer to Jesus, who holds all the answers. Looking for that day when our eyes are fully opened to see His greatness! Sweet blessings to you, friend!

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    1. Yes that’s true. If we’re seeking God that must be a good thing and even if we don’t get all the answers we learn more of him. And one day we will see completely! Blessings to you too!

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  12. I so agree that is the most important questions of all: “Who do you say I am?” I love the 4 stages of faith you shared. I’ve never seen those before but they’re very interesting. It saddens me as well when people feel they can’t ask questions. My husband was raised in a church like that and it really affected him. He’s come a long way in his adult life and has definitely found a mature faith now but it was a long, hard road. We raise our kids to ask away :).

    Liked by 1 person

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