Jesus’s identity—and ours [Jesus story #7]

Ted Grimsrud—April 26, 2021

I stumbled across a quote from James Thurber, the American humorist who died about 50 years ago: “All people should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” That’s a good word about understanding Jesus’s identity—one who lived a life of running toward mercy, the path to what matters most. Then I found another quote, a profound thought from a great philosopher—Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” In our story of Jesus, he comes to a fork in the road and takes it. And challenges us to do the same. Our question, as we read the story, is: What is this fork a choice between? Another way to ask the question: What about Jesus’s choice led to his death?

Why pay attention to Jesus?

I continue to ask the question, why do we pay attention to Jesus? Remember Albert Schweitzer’s image of modern-day people seeking to discover the historical Jesus. Modern historians peer down into the well of history and see a face and think they have found the actual face of Jesus—and don’t realize that the face they see is just their own. Schweitzer’s point is that historians, like everyone else, project themselves onto whatever image of Jesus they think they are recovering.

Now, I believe this kind of projection is not a fatal problem; we can’t help but see ourselves in Jesus. We wouldn’t pay attention to Jesus if we did not somehow think that he can help us understand ourselves, see ourselves better, become our best selves. Of course, we also wouldn’t pay attention to Jesus if we didn’t think there is in him something beyond ourselves, if we didn’t think that it is indeed possible to see something true, something of God, something that actually challenges us.

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