Who is Jesus, and what did he do?
A friend of mine has a 4-year-old grandson, and recently the little boy attended a baptism at my parish. In our church, there is a huge crucifix above the tabernacle, in the middle of the sanctuary. It’s a gorgeous sculpture, and the lifelike image of Jesus must be at least 8 feet tall.
When the 4-year-old boy walked into the church, he looked up at the crucifix and stopped in his tracks. Then he blurted out, “Who is he?! And what did he do?!”
This little boy was stunned by the larger-than-life figure of a mostly naked man painfully nailed to a cross. The two questions that immediately popped into his head concerned the man’s identity, and what he did to deserve such a fate.
That’s the theme of one of the most important passages in the Bible, where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”
And you know what? Those questions asked by that little boy are the TWO most crucial questions in the whole world: Who is Jesus? And what did He do?
When you boil it down, those two questions are the entire basis for our Christian faith. First, the identity of Jesus: He is the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, the eternal word through whom the entire universe was created, and the savior of all mankind. When Jesus confronted the disciples with his blunt question, Peter stepped forward and answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Second, what Jesus did: He humbled hHmself by taking on human flesh; He offered up his life on the cross to pay the price for our sins; He rose from the dead, conquering death once and for all; and he promised that if we put our faith in him, we, too, can live forever.
You’d be surprised how much conflict there is about these two basic questions: Who is Jesus, and what did he do?
Many people are convinced that Jesus was merely a good and wise human teacher, but not divine. The thinking is that Jesus taught a lot of great things about loving other people and taking care of the poor, but he himself was just a man.
However, if you look at some of the claims Jesus made about himself, you cannot possiby conclude that he was just a good and wise human teacher. Jesus said that all authority in heaven has been given to him. He said that he existed before Abraham and saw Satan cast out of heaven. He said that he was more important than the holy Temple in Jerusalem. He said that his death would somehow reconcile mankind back to God.
A mere man who makes such claims cannot be considered good; he would be a deceiver who told blatant lies to manipulate others. And he cannot be considered wise; he would be a fool—and possibly insane—if he actually thought those claims were true.
What Jesus did is also debated nowadays. Many people, even those who call themselves devout Christians, no long believe the Bible is a divinely inspired and trustworthy text. They think the Bible is interesting and curious ancient literature, but it was composed by ignorant, pre-scientific men who didn’t know much about the real world. And so, the conclusion is this: There is no reason to trust what the Bible teaches, including what it says about Jesus’ earthly ministry.
How sad. These folks incorrectly answer the two most important questions in the whole world. But a 4-year-old boy, not even in kindergarten yet, sees an image of Jesus on the cross and is awestruck. He blurts out the two most important questions in the world: Who is he? And what did he do?
How many of us in the pews are so familiar with the sacred images in church that we don’t even notice the crucifix anymore? How long has it been since we saw an image of Jesus suffering on the cross, and had our hearts stirred with awe and wonder?
Now would be a great time for all of us to ponder the two most important questions in the world: Who is Jesus? And what did he do?
That 4-year-old child could not have said it any better. Out of the mouths of babes.
Bill Dunn is a recovering atheist who resides in Torrington. He loves Jesus, his wife and kids and the Red Sox (usually in that order). He can be reached at MerryCatholic@gmail.com.