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Who I Say You Are 5

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I have been sensing Christ asking me to give my own answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” I don’t have just one answer, however, so I have been giving a series of answers. Here’s another one.

What I say:

He is both lamb and shepherd.

What I mean:

He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 RSV). It is his blood, “like that of a [sacrificial] lamb, without defect or blemish” that “ransomed” me from a life of futility (I Peter 1:18-19). It was his death that tore open the curtain of the Holiest Place and made it possible for me (and for all of us) to come boldly into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19-20).

I can’t tell you why it was necessary for him to die for us. I’ve never understood the doctrine of original sin, or how Christ’s death solves the problem. He himself never tried to explain it. I only know that, when Jesus said it was necessary for him to die, and Peter told him to stop being such a downer, Jesus responded to Peter the same way he replied to the Devil when he tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness: “Get behind me, Satan” (compare Matt 16:21-23 with Matt 4:10; in some ancient manuscripts the verbiage is identical). And in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked his Father to prevent his death and suffering “if it were possible” (Mark 14:35). And he added, “For you, all things are possible” (v. 36). But he knew even then that he had to die for us. And he did. He was the sacrificial lamb whose death was a gift to us all.

I’ve never been any good at explaining all that. But I know this: it was only by claiming that gift, in the summer of 1971, that I found God. I didn’t understand it any better than Peter did, and everything inside me protested against it just like Peter protested when he first heard about it. But I understood what Jesus meant when Peter objected to Christ washing his feet (John 13:6-7). Jesus told him, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me” (v. 8). That much was clear to me.

So on that early summer’s evening in 1971, I accepted the gift, despite all my inner objections. I told him I wanted his blood to wash me of my sin. And he did.

Someday when I stand before God and have to give an account of my life, I’m not going to justify myself. “My one defense,” as Matt Maher says, is Jesus, and what he did on the cross. He is “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 5:12).

But, at the risk of mixing metaphors, I also identify him as the Great Shepherd. For after he cleanses us, then he guides us further into life with God.

On that Day of Reckoning, I will be asked a number of stern questions: What did I do with the resources God gave me (Matt 25:14-30)? And how did I respond when I was faced with people in need (vv. 31-46)? In other words, I’ll be compelled to give an account of what happened after I was redeemed by the blood of Christ. What did I go on to do with that precious gift?

Here again, my only defense will be that I followed my Shepherd. But that, too, will be enough. Through the fifty intervening years since I accepted his sacrifice as the Lamb, he has guided me, prodded me, and kept me moving forward, as a Shepherd. The Shepherd not only lays down his life for the sheep but also guides them; and his sheep know his voice and follow him wherever he leads (John 10:1-30). That has certainly been my experience. He has taken me to places I never expected to go, and herded me into flocks I never thought I’d be part of.

He’s full of surprises… so much so that it’s impossible for me to tell you who he is in a brief, tweetable message.

And that’s why I’ll continue giving you my answer to that question in future posts.

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