“Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’
They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’’
Then he said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.'” (Luke 9:18-22)
While this passage illustrates the varying opinions about who Jesus is, He directs the question solely to Peter when He asks him “Who do you say that I am.” And in my own meditation on this passage, I feel that He personally asks me to answer this question as well, especially during these tumultuous times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on several people, clearly from having to shelter-in-place and social distance. In the worst case, several people have lost their lives to this pandemic.
In the United States, where I write this, protests have also erupted over issues of police brutality, especially with the upcoming presidential election and people demanding change.
And on the west coast, where I also write this, the air was extremely hazardous from wildfires across the state of Oregon, so much so that the air was dark and gloomy, along with it being very difficult to breathe. While many of us may have come to realize that the openings of schools, businesses, and even being able to meet with friends may have been taken for granted before COVID, the ability to even breathe clean air is apparently not guaranteed either!
And so, considering the setting that I write this in, I feel many people would have interesting answers to this question Jesus poses us. Some may believe that He is an angry and wrathful God, as several Old Testament readings may suggest. Some may also believe that He is indifferent to all that is going on because His intervention is not readily seen by us. Finally, some may even believe that He is no one at all, or perhaps even someone to turn away from altogether.
But when I read this, I feel a very personal invitation to answer this question of “Who do you say that I am.” And my answer is that He is my rock and my foundation through all of these tumultuous times. Even through the storm of these times, I have found His blessings working in my life, whether that is being closer to my immediate family members, cherishing the friendships that I have more, and even being able to work from home now. And ultimately, these tribulations have made me depend on God more, and strengthen in my relationship with Him.
To offer my positive psychology reflection on this matter, He is love and kindness, which is demonstrated by his numerous acts of forgiveness and mercy throughout the New Testament, and continues to offer today. Love and kindness are character strengths falling in line with the virtue of humanity. Forgiveness is also under the virtue of moderation. Jesus exhibits these character strengths and virtues in the most consummate way. This fact strongly contrasts with any opinions that Jesus is wrathful and angry, and that He would ever deliberately inflict these sufferings on us. More often than not, it is we who turn away from God and His ways, which have longer-term natural consequences. This is precisely why He instructs to follow His ways; because they will help us to avoid suffering in the future, as well as to navigate it courageously when it does. He is also not indifferent to what is going on. In fact, He is calling us now perhaps more than any other time in our own lives to return to Him and His love, so as to power through all these trials. It’s precisely why He gave His life on the cross in the first place; to give us hope even through the storm. And finally, we can express gratitude for the good things that come out of all these trials in the long run, even if they may be more difficult to see right now. Gratitude is under the virtue of transcendence, which Jesus ultimately invites us all to do by entering into a relationship with him, which is also characterized by the strength of spirituality.
Unexpectedly, this ended up being rather lengthy, perhaps indicating the importance of answering this question posed by Jesus “Who do you say that I am.” And to me, He is the Christ. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). I am not sure what I would do without Him, especially through these times. I thank you all for taking the time to read these reflections, and I welcome any of your own as well. I hope you are all doing well, and God bless you!