Who do the crowds say that I am? … Who do you say that I am?
We often think of Jesus as the teacher with all the answers. But of the 183 questions that people ask him in the Gospels, he answered fewer than 10. At the same time, Jesus asks more than 300 questions! What does this fondness for questions tell us?
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” is easy to answer. It is like an icebreaker game – a nonthreatening discussion starter. The disciples chime in to report other people’s opinions. But then comes the type of hard question that has students praying that the teacher will not call on them; “Who do you say that I am?” Such a small change, but what a difference it makes!
Through the disciples have seen Jesus heal, exorcise, and teach with authority and power, they still find it hard to confess him as the Messiah. It takes courage and spiritual insight. They sense that saying “Jesus is Lord” involves putting him at the center of their lives in a radical way.
Jesus’ questions tell us a couple of other things about him. First, they reveal that he loves his followers enough to help them find the peace that comes from believing in him. It is because Jesus so passionately wants them – and us – to find life in him that he bothers to ask any questions at all. That is why the questions seems to leap out with a kind of urgent mercy. What do you thing about what I am doing and saying? How will you respond?
Second, notice how Jesus often leaves his questions unanswered. That is because he trusts that we are able to sense what is true and respond to it. We just need to quiet our hearts and listen for his Holy Spirit.
Even today, Jesus is doing everything he can – when we go to Mass, when we read the Scriptures, or when we think about the beauty of creation – to help us answer this most burning question: “Who do you say that I am?”