Who Are You?
Based on Acts 9:1-20, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19
Picture this…a couple who are all by themselves are engaged in a spirited conversation. We join the conversation just after one half of the couple says something outrageous or unexpected. The other, with an incredulous look, says something like, “I don’t know who you are anymore!” Perhaps you have been involved in a conversation that has taken a turn like this. Suffice it to say, it is awkward, uncomfortable and disorienting to be anywhere near such an interaction!
Our scriptures this week have characters in them each wondering “Who are you?” in relation to the resurrected Christ, or “who is he now?” in the case of Saul. The seven Disciples on the Sea of Tiberias, who have seen him at least twice, wonder in their minds who it is that has breakfast prepared on the beach. Saul is off to Damascus to continue to persecute the followers of “The Way” and has an epiphany with the Christ on the road. John’s revelation has him weeping because there seems to be none of the fanciful beings above, on, or under the earth who can open the scroll in heaven.
“Who Are You?”…it is a valid question for us on our spiritual journeys. In our development as disciples, we need to ask every now and then of Jesus as the Christ, “Who Are You?”, because as we develop as disciples, we will likely discover different aspects of who the Christ is for us. Discovering who the Risen Christ is for us is the reason for our journey in the first place. If we do not ask that question, it is likely that we will never get very far along “The Way”. Let us go to God now and ask for the courage to ask the question and the perseverance to discover the answer…
According to the reading from Acts today, Saul was “…breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,…” In this state of mind he set off with the intent to find, bind, and bring back to Jerusalem any of the followers of “the Way”. In a flash of light from heaven, however, his mindset changed forever. A voice says to Saul, “…why do you persecute me?…” Saul replies, “…Who are you” and adds the title, “Lord”. Jesus introduces Himself and then gives Saul his first directive to continue to Damascus and await further instructions. A disciple of the Way, Ananias, was led to Saul and completed his conversion with return of sight and baptism.
John has been invited up into heaven and is “in the spirit”. He sees a throne with one seated on it, 24 elders dressed in white around this and a sea in front of the throne. There are four living creatures around the throne as well which are singing constantly, “…Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come….” In our reading today, John weeps because he believes that no one can open the scroll of the one seated on the throne. However, one of the elders tells John that the Lamb who was slain is able to open the scroll. John must have been wondering who the Lamb was, but the company of heaven and all of creation began singing, “…To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!…”
Peter is restless after three years of continuous wandering and the events of the last few weeks. He doesn’t know quite what to do with himself now that Jesus is no longer always around, and the Holy Spirit has yet to appear. He decides to go back to what he was good at…fishing. Six of the disciples decide to go along to see what they can catch. The scripture tells us that these professional fishermen worked all night long and got skunked. As dawn breaks, the weary and frustrated disciples hear a shout from the beach about 100 yards away. “Cast the net to the right side of the boat” says the man, “and you will find some” fish. The abundance of the catch gives John the insight that the unknown man is Jesus; impetuous Peter jumps in and swims to shore. The man invites them to eat once the net full of fish is dragged by Peter to the fire…but look at verse 12, the second sentence says, “…Now none dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord….” Really? The post-resurrection Christ obviously looked different than Jesus the wandering rabbi – not all the disciples were able to discern who it really was at the fire.
“I don’t know who you are anymore!” The underlying message here is not only “Who are you?” but also, “Who have you become?” We often think we know someone, especially those humans that we have lived closely with or with whom we have shared a good deal of our lives. Yet, we often live so closely with them that we miss the slow process of growth and change. It is only when something causes the scales to fall from our eyes that we really see what has been in front of us all the time. The person resembles someone we thought we knew, but there is a significant difference in the way they interact with us. It can be quite disorienting and disquieting!
Let’s look at how the Christ and Saul are portrayed in the scripture readings today as examples of the point I’m attempting to make. John is around the throne of heaven and seated there is one who looks like jasper and carnelian. Four living creatures resembling a lion, ox, human and eagle are arrayed around the throne at cardinal points and 24 elders are there as well. The Lamb that John sees is not like we would see here, it has seven eyes and seven horns, and stands “as if it had been slaughtered”. No wonder John didn’t know that this was the heavenly representation of the Christ! It’s not until everything begins to worship the Lamb that John is clued in to who this is. The Christ portrayed here is nothing like the earthly Jesus of Nazareth.
Saul is rendered temporarily blind by Jesus and thus is totally dependent on those around him on a street called Straight in Damascus. Saul did not recognize Jesus, because he had been blinded by his zealous pursuit of the penalty of the Law for the heretics of the Way. Yet, he knew that something other worldly was happening on that road because he asked his question and then added the title, “Lord”. Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, is told by Jesus to go to Saul and lay hands on him – bless him in other words. Ananias tells Jesus what he has heard about this Saul from Jerusalem and what he has been doing to believers in the Christ. Jesus tells Ananias that Saul is no longer himself, but is now “…an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;…” Saul has been transformed by his interaction with the Christ and will come to call himself Paul, a servant and apostle of Jesus the Christ. He has become a new creation through Christ.
Peter is walking with Jesus after they had finished breakfast. Peter, not understanding that Jesus was different now, responded to Jesus’ questions about loving Him as if Jesus were still human. Jesus asks the question three times to get Peter’s attention and to break him down. As the Christ, he also redeems Peter from his three-fold denial of him. Peter finally understands that Jesus is now the Christ when he states, “…Lord, you know everything;…” and in addition, “…you know that I love you….”
This is when the Christ tells him once again to follow.
The characters in our scriptures struggle to understand who Jesus has become as a result of the Resurrection. He looks similar to the person they knew from before the crucifixion, but there is something new and unknown. This newness is something that each of them, that each of us, must discover as we seek an ever-deepening relationship with God through the Christ. Jesus asked the disciples once, “Who do people say that I am?” and then followed it with a disciple-specific question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered correctly “the Christ” that is the Messiah who was foretold. If the Christ asked you the same question today, “Who do you say that I am?”, how would you answer? You know what people have said about the Christ over the last 2000+ years, but have you ever tried to put into words what being a Christian really means for you and your life? Who have you become or are becoming because you have chosen to give some or all of yourself to Christ? That is your homework for this week. I’d love to know your answer to that question at this point in your journey. May God through the power of the Holy Spirit cause the scales to fall from our eyes that we might see more clearly who the Christ is for us and for the whole world. Amen and amen! turn i(t=