Scot McKnight's book, The King Jesus Gospel, addresses this issue. We are more concerned, he says, with getting people to be part of the "decided," and have ignored making "disciples." He writes, “When we separate the Plan of Salvation from the story, we cut ourselves off from the story that identifies us and tells our past and tells our future. We separate ourselves from Jesus and turn the Christian faith into a System of Salvation.”
With this in mind, I believe we need to be asking the question, "Who is Jesus?," and pointing people toward the answers found in Scripture. In Mark 8:27-30, we read that Jesus was walking with his disciples, and he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" The disciples reply. Then Jesus asks, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" Peter answers correctly, "You are the Messiah." Peter knows not just about Jesus - his teachings, his ability to heal, and his ability to perform miracles - Peter knows who Jesus is. I believe there is a difference, and that difference matters. I believe one can know about Jesus without really knowing Jesus. And I believe it's in coming to know who Jesus is that we are truly able to put our FULL trust in him.
The other night at youth group we had an experience shaped around this very question, "Who is Jesus?" Students looked at 14 different images of Jesus from various traditions, ethnic representations, past and present. The image below shows the faces:
There were two questions to consider as they looked at the images:
1) Write a number 1-5 representing how well you IDENTIFY withe the image. [1 = This is NOT Jesus. 3 = This could be Jesus for someone, but I'm not sure for me. 5 = This IS my Jesus.]
2) Write ONE word that describes the image. What was your initial, or gut reaction to the image; the first word that came into your head?
Using the images above, I challenge you to do the same. The responses were quite interesting. Some students quickly identified with the Jesus who looked like them - the Swedish Jesus or Jesus from the movies. Others identified with the mysterious Jesus, the Jesus that was whoever they needed him to be. After reading the responses, I think my favorite was a description of the neon green picture in the bottom right corner which read, "Undercover Jesus." I found it interesting that some students were offended at some of the images. "THIS IS NOT JESUS," they said emphatically. "No way." The conversation and discussions that ensued were amazing and important to each student's development of a relationship with Jesus.
In conclusion, I believe we need to do a better job pointing people to the person of Jesus. Not just his birth story. Not just his teachings. Not just his death. We need to tell the whole story. We need to help people understand why Peter's answer, "You are the Messiah," is so important. We need to be pointed to Jesus, each and every one of us, and allow him to ask us the question, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?"