Across the various subjects I teach my favourite is the second year subject called ‘Jesus the Christ’.
Christology is a central part of Christian theology. The study of Jesus can be exciting (even exhilarating!) and exhausting. More books about Jesus are written each year than anyone can keep up with: ranging from the excellent to the eccentric. Studying Jesus can also be unnerving for students of Christian faith. Sooner or later they (and we!) must be prepared to ask whether the Christ of Christian faith is the Jesus of historical research.
But there is an even more basic question that emerges from this morning’s gospel reading. Jesus inquired of his disciples in Mark. 8:28 (in the original the word is eperota – not a polite question – but a searching interrogation): Who do people say that I am? This question is the organising principle for the subject I teach and examines the answers from the New Testament witnesses and gospel writers; ancient historical sources scattered among creeds, councils and controversies; various theologians: old (like Athanasius) and new (like Bonhoeffer); a number of critics along the way as well as voices from the margins!
After his searching question Jesus then eyeballs his first followers and asks: But, who do you say that I am? (Mk. 8:29). I aim to preach and teach about Jesus in a way that is both intellectually rigorous and nourishes faith convictions. As a pastor and a theologian I want to enable my listeners to answer both questions well.
Actually, there is one more question that pastors and theologians like me all too often neglect. It comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Who is Jesus Christ for us today? As a community of faith in Paddington, our answer to that question fundamentally shapes our story and our future.
– Rev Dr Geoff Broughton