It may seem simple to ask: “Who is Jesus?” – but such a query can generate a multiplicity of responses.
One might answer by examining the symbol that framed his life and ministry – the cross; a tool of torture, fear, shame and execution by the Roman occupiers.
One might discuss Jesus based on the stories we know of his teaching and healing, found in the four Gospels of the New Testament.
One might contemplate the significance of his name, ‘Jesus’ (he will save); or his title ‘Christ’ (anointed one) means for an individual, a community, or the history of Israel.
One might frame twenty-centuries of reflection, creeds, statements, theology and practice by the expansion and ministry of the Christian Church in all its forms around the planet; or how a particular Christian tradition (i.e. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism) continues to express itself based on its understanding of Jesus in the context of its own history and culture.
One might ask how other religious traditions outside of Christianity (including modern secularism) view Jesus and his significance to human culture and development.
One might dig deeper into this question by asking questions about the historical context of his life and ministry in first century Roman Palestine, the Messianic longing among the populace at the time, the religious establishment throughout Judea as it related to the empire, how people back then heard and understood the prophets, and other historical topics of interest.
Each of these areas of study would prove useful for a fruitful examination of Jesus of Nazareth for either a group or an individual person. However, the only question that matters is the one that Jesus himself asks us to consider: “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29)
His disciples gave a variety of answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets, the Messiah (Mark 8:28-29). Why they might have given those responses, and why it was important for Mark to include them in this story as it is recorded and passed along to us all these years later would also be of interest to investigate.
Yet the question Jesus aims directly at you – is the most valuable: “But who do you say that I am?”
Keep seeking him, and share what you discover along the way.