facebook script

Can't find something?

We're here to help.

Send us an email at:

[email protected]

and we'll get back with you as soon as possible.

Who is Jesus to you?

In August’s Perspective on Hope, Jerry DeVine talks about being caught off guard by Jesus.

Director of Connectional Ministry, Detroit Conference

… on the way Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”      Mark 8:28-29, NRSV

The question came unexpectedly and bluntly from a delegate sitting just to my side as I stood and responded to questions from a large conference delegation at the North Central Jurisdiction Conference in Peoria.  I had been answering a myriad of questions related to my perspectives on congregational growth, denominational decline, tensions around human identity as it relates to human sexuality and sexual orientation, my willingness to support the Discipline or my willingness to challenge it, etc. etc. etc.    Then without warning came the invasive yet simple question, spoken with boldness and perhaps an element of frustration with all of the other agendas whirling around: “Who is Jesus to you?”

Up to that moment the questions for weeks had been focused on issues and strategies and how leaders might help guide the Church into an uncertain future.   This question was straightforward and intense, and I have to admit it took me off guard for just a brief moment.  After all, I have been “inside” the Church for most of my life.  After all, I have three degrees from United Methodist educational institutions.  After all, I am an ordained clergy in the Church.  After all, I was being considered as a possible Bishop of the church.  And you ask me, “Who is Jesus to me?”

If you are an active lay person just imagine if the Leadership Development Committee (Nominations Committee) of your local church started every invitation to serve with the question, “Who is Jesus to you?” prior to considering you for a leadership role in ministry.  After all, you have been an active member of your congregation for a number of years.  After all, you help “pay the bills” through your financial giving.  After all, you are a volunteer, not a paid staff person, etc. etc. etc.  We do expect such a question perhaps when we join the church for the first time, yet not necessarily once we are “inside”.

Or, if you are an ordained, provisional or licensed clergy person, will you expect the District Superintendent who calls you to inform you of a new appointment to start by asking, “Who is Jesus to you?”  We do expect such a question when we begin the journey of candidacy for ministry, and during the examination interviews for licensing or ordination, yet not once we are “inside”.

I wonder if the disciples were caught off guard when Jesus asked them, “Who do people say that I am?”—“Who do you say that I am?”  After all, they had said “yes” when he called them to follow him.  After all, they had seen his miracles, participated in his public teachings and healings, supported him as he challenged the teachers of the Law, etc. etc. etc.!  Even so, Jesus wanted to know how their understanding was shaping their lives and approach to the world around them.  They had heard people call him Rabbi or teacher.  They had heard people suggest he was John the Baptist come back from the dead, or the new incarnation of Elijah or one of the other prophets.  All of these suggestions revealed some of the truth about the nature of Jesus, yet the question begs for a deeper understanding.  While the question, “Who do you say that I am?” may have felt a bit invasive for the disciples, it also opened up the door for owning and proclaiming faith and relationship.  Peter proclaimed, “You are the Messiah—the Christ!”

This was the nature of the question given to me.  I knew I only had about 90 seconds to answer so I simply told my questioner that Jesus is the welcoming one that I met at the age of five as I walked down a dirt farm lane singing “Jesus loves me…”   Jesus is the one awakening a call within me at the age of 13.  Jesus is the one that drew me back in to a relationship with God so that I could claim an adult relationship at the age of 23, not only bringing me a profound sense of forgiveness and deliverance, but also a prophetic call to help lead the church in the world.  I went on to point out that Jesus is the Christ who was from the beginning of Creation and is lived out in the movement of the Holy Spirit through the sanctifying grace shaping my life and the life of the Church every single day.  Jesus is not simply a savior on the cross of the past; he is the redemptive reality of daily living.  He is the prophet that confronted societal and religious norms that devalued children, women, people with illnesses or challenged abilities, and people of other ethnic and cultural groups.   Jesus is the Incarnate grace of God who eats with the marginalized and oppressed.

It has been over a month since that question was launched at me, and I am grateful that it continues to permeate my thoughts.  So that you might have opportunity to also reflect and deepen your relationship and understanding, I ask you, “Who is Jesus to you?”

In the 14-month period between a crippling stroke and his death in January of 1973 the late E. Stanley Jones answered this question with his final book, The Divine Yes.  I close with his words of wisdom and affirmation [adjusting the gender language slightly]:

“So Jesus is the Yes that God can and does rule in the inmost recesses of our hearts.  …  So he is the Yes to the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  …  At last, then, at long last the Divine Yes has sounded through him.  Jesus is the yes to all of God’s promises: that there is a God, a (Creator) lying behind this universe caring for all creation; that this (Creator) is manifested in the face of Jesus Christ, for ours is a Christ-like God; that humankind can be different, and life can be utterly changed; that our emptiness can become fullness as every recess of our inner and outer lives is invaded and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  To all these promises Jesus Christ is the Divine Yes, and we belong to him.”


Last Updated on August 23, 2016

The Michigan Conference