It is a clunky sentence, that question from Jesus. Does he mean, "Who are people saying is the Son of Man?" Does he mean, "Who are people saying I am?" Is he looking for affirmation? Has his encounter with the Canaanite woman brought up real questions of identity in Jesus?
It is a clunky sentence, that question from Jesus, but it is far weightier than its clunkiness would lead us to believe.
What if you asked that question of your congregation this week? What sort of answers would you get? In Episcopal circles, I suppose some would look to CS Lewis and say he is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. Some might say he was a great teacher. Other would say he was the perfect the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, killed by Pilate, dead, and risen from the dead. And, I'm afraid, some might stare blankly back at you, unable to express, in any way, who they understand the Son of Man to be.
I started reading "Almost Christian" a few months ago. It is an academic book based on the results of a study of the religious habits of youth and young adults. It was too dense for me. Impractical. The stuff of seminary. So I put it down and bought "Missional Youth Ministry" instead. This is a book I can get behind, a book with feet, a book with heart. Anyway, the gist of both books is this - For 50 years we've taught a bastardized version of the Gospel, and our students are so ingrained in this false message, taught to them by parents who learned it from their parents, who learned it, by example, from folks whose lives were marked by two World Wars and a Great Depression, that they can't speak, intelligently or otherwise, about their faith because all they know is 1) be nice and 2) God's there when you need him.
Tomorrow, we'll look at Jesus' more pointed question, "who do you say that I am?" Today, I'm wondering, how has the Church failed to share the Good News? How have we missed our chance to express who the Son of Man is to a culture hungry for faith? Who do others say Jesus is? Are they right? Or have they hijacked the faith from us all?