When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they...
Identity is perhaps one of the most important and most confusing issues for the human psyche. The first question when a baby is born is, “Boy or girl?” (That’s important so people know what color clothes to buy.) Of course, there’s so much more to it than that. But this is just the beginning of a long journey. What is our identity based on? Or, to put it another way, what is your first answer to the request, “Tell me about yourself”? We often define our identity based on (1) our occupation or hobbies and/or (2) our relationships. Someone might say, “I’m an astrophysicist” or “I’m a bungee-jumper” or “I’m Kelly’s mom.” Are these helpful descriptions? Is there something more to be said?
Interestingly, Jesus’ favorite title for Himself during His earthly ministry was “Son of Man.” This title both describes His occupation and relationship. In one sense, this was a title that demonstrated that Christ was fully human and had entered into creation. “Son of Man” was simply a Hebrew phrase for a “person.” But, in a technical sense, Christ employed this title because of the messianic figure recorded in the book of Daniel, the “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds.” The “Son of Man” was closely identified with humanity, but certainly so much more. So, in preferring this title for Himself, He was sending a complex message to His listeners, and ever more so when He predicted His death:
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:31-32)
Peter didn’t really get it; I’m not sure I would have either, but that’s why God’s revelation is progressive. In order to understand Christ’s identity, we need to continue to grow in relationship with Him, just as we would with the bungee-jumping astrophysicist with the daughter named Kelly.
Another person confused about Christ’s identity was Saul of Tarsus, who later would be known as Paul. When he asks, “Who are You, Lord?” the reply is, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Ouch. So matter-of-fact. But it gets better: Jesus continues, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” What does Saul learn about Jesus’ identity in his encounter, and in this stage in history? Authority. This encounter was the first revelation for Saul of His Master. And this revelation of Jesus’ identity demanded a response.
Even as a mere human, the revelation of my identity to another person demands a response. Accept me for who I am, or not. Seek to understand me better, or not. Even the Lord, who knows us intimately and infinitely, works with us in this way. He chooses to accept us. He also chooses to develop us and invest in us. And as He models that approach, the same is expected of us—to seek Him (“Who are You, Lord?”), to believe Him (“You are who You say You are”), to be a part of His Kingdom (“Make me who You want me to be”). Identity: revealed.