He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.Matthew 16:15-16
Dear members and friends,
The most important question as a Christian to me has been, “Who was Jesus Christ?” As witnessed by the Four Gospels, Jesus was a wise and influential person, who was born of Mary, lived in Nazareth, and showed many signs. There is no trouble at all accepting and believing in such an amazing person who lived 2,000 years ago. The challenge about Jesus is not about his humanness, but his self-proclaimed divinity. This was, and still is challenging for at least two reasons: 1. A Divine Being who was not created by humans was real and present in a human body; 2. Divinity was contained within the human body. First reason was and is problematic because most learned people, then and now, acknowledge that all the gods worshiped were created or invented by their own minds as symbolic figures of either the natural forces or their psychological experiences. However, Jesus proclaims that the Divine Being, who created all beings, is real and present in the created universe. This is a big deal, because this means that humans are not only not in charge of all things, but also mere creatures who must obey higher rules. The second problem is that as far as human logic is concerned, humans and gods do not dwell in the same reality. Humans tend to believe that the human world is fully controlled by humans, while gods live in their world, even though it has never been so. However, Jesus claims that there is no such separation, and thus a Divine Being can be fully present in the human world as well as the world beyond.
About 28 years ago, I confessed, like Peter did in Matthew 16, in front of about 200 people that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I believe in the saving power of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.” I said these words by simply reciting from the book given to me. In Matthew 16, Peter made the confession, because he was asked by Jesus in front of other disciples, and because it was believed to be the right answer. However, having faith in Jesus or in any religion is not about saying certain things because they are considered true and correct by others, but about actually knowing what one believes with experience and understanding. The reality of faith does not dwell in knowing the right things, but arises from living what is true to one’s heart. In other words, no one is capable of truly believing what is not true to one’s heart. Thus, in order to believe, one has to choose either to change one’s own heart to be compatible with the truth or change the truth so that it is suitable to one’s heart. Doing the former is cultivating faith, while doing the latter is abusing truth. Jesus asked Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” If I may change this to what is proper to me, “But who do perceive in your heart that I am?” Whatever is true in our heart is where we should begin our spiritual journey.
My brothers and sisters in God, let us put aside all the supposedly right ways of saying things and matters, and then see what is true in our hearts. Whatever we find there, let us embrace it with a sense of blissfulness, because now we are ready to embark on the true spiritual journey.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee