Reading the gospels, we encounter a Jesus who loved questions. It was a consistent approach in His conversations, whether with the sick, the religious elite, or his best friends. Sometimes he’d even answer questions with another question! If Jesus employed them, surely questions can be a helpful spiritual tool to get to the heart of the matter.
Asking open-ended questions is a central tool of Spiritual Direction. As you read these questions, think of Jesus a Spiritual Director (a gentle guide who asks questions and holds the space for another to explore and deepen their relationship with God).
Do you want to be well?
Where is your faith?
Who touched me?
Do you believe?
Why are you afraid?
Do you love me?
So simple. So deep. So revealing, in a good way. And there’s this one:
Who do you say I am?
Let’s take a few moments to sit with this inquiry. Matthew, Mark and Luke each give accounts of this conversation between Jesus and the disciples some time after the feeding of the 5,000.
The tone assigned to this exchange is often aggressive or accusatory: why don’t you just believe me already, you idiots? Fortunately Peter avoids Jesus’ consternation by coming through with the right answer. But what if we assume an open-handed and loving tone? What if, instead of trying to trick the disciples, Jesus was looking for a genuine answer to a personal question?
Yep, I’ve heard those rumors too. But who do YOU say I am? I want to know what’s going on inside your hearts, dear friends. Your perspective matters to me. We’ve experienced some crazy events these last few months: resurrection, healings, food multiplied, demons exorcized, storms calmed. I wonder what it all means to you. I want to give you a chance to put words to what’s brewing inside you during this experience of a lifetime. To take an intentional moment to name what you know deep down.
After all you’ve seen me do and say, who am I to you?
- Read the passage slowly.
One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
“Well,” they replied, “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.”
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
- Picture the scene.
Engaging your imagination, picture Jesus and his disciples, in the height of his ministry, sneaking away to a quiet garden. Maybe the backyard of a friend, or the far side of a field. After spending some time alone with God, He came back over to the area the disciples were sitting in and took a seat.
- Place yourself inside the scene.
Read through the passage again, this time placing yourself in the scene. Perhaps you’re one of the disciples, taking a short break in the Galilean countryside. What are the sights and sounds? Imagine the dusty ground, the warm sun, the sense of anticipation. The raw wonder of seeing one boy’s lunch turned into several thousand. You can still feel the weight of the basket you passed around to collect the leftovers.
Picture Jesus. What does he look like? What is the expression on his face? How does he regard you?
He asks your group a question: “Who do people say I am?”
You hear the answers of your friends: “John the Baptist; Elijah; Jeremiah; an ancient prophet resurrected!”
Jesus turns to you, and as your eyes meet he gently asks, “But who do YOU say I am?”
- Engage in a conversation.
Take time here to be completely honest with the Lord, whether in your heart, aloud, or written. There is no right or wrong answer. Jesus genuinely wants to know what YOU think. He asks you, in first person:
Friend, consider all we’ve been through, and what you’ve seen me do and say…
Who am I?
Who have I been to you?
Who do you think I am to you in this season?
Who am I to you right now in this moment?
Who do you think I want to be for you?
Would you like to know who I want to be for you right now?
Continue to picture Jesus sitting with you as you have this conversation. Pay attention to any sense you have of Jesus’ posture toward you, and listen for any thoughts or impressions that arise.
- Record your experience.
Take a moment to write down or voice memo the conversation you’ve just had with the Lord. Notice where it might lead you in your next alone-time with him. Allow that leading to grow within you.