“Who do you say I am?” If we are to look at the passage and reflection from last week, we might answer Jesus’ question with, “a jerk.” I think many in this day and age would say that he is the way to punch their golden ticket through the pearly gates. Perhaps he is the meek, mild and peace-loving teacher. Perhaps he is the Holy Troublemaker for which my blog is named. The Son of God. A revolutionary. The Messiah. A prophet. The Word made flesh. A rabbi. God incarnate. A criminal. A man. Something else entirely. Unfortunately, I think we all tend to have our “perfect” answer, that ends up leading us to an ultimately imperfect reality. It seems to me that when we have set our sights on one of these answers as opposed to the rest, we lose some of the richness of how we might answer this question.
At the end of the day, during the council of Chalcedon in 451, I think the church fathers got something right—they didn’t really answer the question! Instead of saying Christ was God or man, they said he was both.
“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, …the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, …”
Now as you can tell by the ellipsis marks, they said a whole lot more than that (If you want the full thing google “Chalcedonian Definition”). But what it boils down to is a wonderful paradox. We know there is God there and we know there is man there, but there is no absolute black and white definition.
Unfortunately, we don’t much care for paradoxes, and rather than live in that tension we often try to eliminate the mystery in favor of the concrete. Perhaps that is why we are so attracted to just one answer to that question, “Who do you say that I am?”
That may be our biggest problem—paradox elimination. We need more paradox and more tension if we are to be faithful. I would suggest that the next time we feel we have it figured out—imagine the opposite of what we think we know, and then live in that tension—Christ Fully God and Fully Human. Christ Fully Meek and Mild and fully radical. Christ the key to salvation and the teacher of great wisdom. Christ the revolutionary and Christ the Peacemaker. None of them are enough on their own, we need the complications. We need the challenge. We need the paradox.