[This is the third of a series of six posts on how my faith convictions have changed (or not) in the past 15 years that I have been a college professor. Not long before leaving congregational ministry to begin teaching I did a series of sermons trying to state in concise terms what I understood to be key Christian beliefs. I am posting an excerpts from my sermon on Jesus here. I will follow this post from 1996 with a post looking briefly at changes (and the lack thereof) in my convictions about Jesus in the past 15 years. Here are links to the first two posts—one on my views of God 15 years ago and the second on present-day thoughts about God.]
What Do We Believe About Jesus Christ?
Ted Grimsrud—January 14, 1996
Years ago, I had a memorable experience—though not a memory I recall fondly. I had been pastoring long enough in my first pastorate to be considered for ordination. Our congregation asked the conference to process my ordination. That led to me meeting with the conference leadership committee for an interview.
The interview was generally a positive experience, at least most of it. The committee was made up of three pastors and the conference minister, all people I knew fairly well and a couple of them pretty good friends. But one of the pastors was not particularly friendly. He asked some questions in a kind of suspicious tone, and near the end of our time came to one of his big concerns.
He referred to the time Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about him, who people said that Jesus was. Then Jesus asks the disciples directly—“Who do you say that I am?” The pastor asked me the same question—“Who do you say that Jesus is?” I responded with a lengthy answer. I had been reading a lot about the life of Jesus and theological understandings of Jesus, what is called “christology”. I was ready for the question and enjoyed talking about it. It became clear, though, that my response was not what this guy was looking for. He had something else in mind.
This is a basic question, for sure, one which continues to be addressed to all of us. Who do we say that Jesus is? What do we believe about Jesus Christ? I want to suggest that Mennonite Christians believe three central things about Jesus Christ. First, we believe Jesus is God’s messiah who brings salvation through his suffering and death. Second, we believe Jesus is the model human being, who asks us to follow his way of living. And third, we believe that Jesus is God-with-us, who shows us that the power of love is the most important kind of power. Continue reading