This post was inspired by Pastor Ellen (one of my last remaining Methodist Pastors) who emailed me the following question as she prepares for a class:
Did Jesus know who he was and what he was going to do on earth? At what point did he know if he did? How does that connect w/fully man and fully God?
It’s a question that we’re dealing with right now in my Systematic Theology class, and one we dealt with last semester in my Early/Medieval Church History Class. And once again, I’m on the verge of throwing up my arms and yelling, “WHO CARES?”
Ok, it’s not that I don’t really care. I think maybe I just don’t care quite as much as most of Christendom throughout history.
I think we’re a little over-obsessed with the whole “Who was Jesus” question. Maybe we miss the boat sometimes when we spend all our time, energy, intellect, councils, and creeds trying to figure out the nature of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, and to what extent, and in what way, and when, and….
Jesus didn’t really tell us that we had to spend a lot of time trying to figure out who he was. In fact, of all his many teachings and acts, Jesus only brought up the question once. But he did spend a LOT of time telling us other things we should do, like “feed my sheep” and “love one another as I have loved you.” And Jesus’ disciples certainly didn’t acknowledge him as divine, or messiah, or much of anything else when they first chose to follow him — unlike today, where we expect people to confess him as divine savior as a precursor to following him. I imagine that Jesus’ disciples followed him because he seemed somehow interesting or compelling to them — or maybe because they had heard about how awesome he was from others. Some probably even followed him for the wrong reasons entirely.
I wonder if you really have to understand who Jesus is to recognize the value in what he told us to do, and then to just do it. And then, long into your journey, if you decide, like Peter, that Jesus is the Son of God, good for you. If, on the other hand, you stick with Jesus’ own preferred designation of himself (Son of Man)…great! Jesus didn’t criticize or disown the other disciples who didn’t (or couldn’t) answer the question. But please, please, please…let’s not waste any more time on councils, creeds, theological tomes, or debates while we could actually be doing the work Jesus asked us to do…whoever he was/is.