the question of who we identify with: Jesus or his disciples?

Holy Week offers us a number of texts about that week from the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Not that we shouldn’t be in these texts regularly through the year, even as we ought to be in the Advent texts regularly as well. The question has been raised about who the readers or listeners identify with: Jesus or the disciples? It has been found that the clergy tend to identify with Jesus while the laity tend to identify with the disciples. May I suggest that it shouldn’t be an either/or, but an and/both? Not that my suggestion is any kind of revelation. It may well be that I tend to identify with one over the other, though I’m not sure which one in my case. And any careful listener or reader is bound to identifiy differently, depending. It is interesting though, that there was a difference in the survey results.

There is no doubt that the disciple is called to be like their Lord, so that this distinction is nearly broken down. But I am becoming like my Lord, growing in his likeness, by grace coming to share in that likeness as a distinct human being, in my case as Ted Gossard. The way I see this is that the goal should be that when people see me, they don’t see me at all, but instead they see Jesus, or more precisely something of Jesus, since whatever likeness to the Lord I may have is completely a gift from God, and that even through my own weakness and lack, Jesus somehow is made known.

I have to confess, generally speaking at least, I don’t care for such questions. At best they might put a window on tendencies in us to help us in some way, but I think we should look at any given text from a number of perspectives. After all, Jesus is the fulfillment of what Israel was to be, and who we ourselves are to follow, so that, again, the distinction has a way of breaking down. Jesus himself suggested the same to his disciples in a number of ways. For example he told them that it is enough for the disciple to become like their Master.

Of course we never become completely like Jesus, even if 1 John 3:2 might seem to suggest that to some. Jesus remains fully God and fully human. We are made to be partakers of the divine nature, in Orthodox terms: divinized, but remaining solely human. God never changes, even while in Jesus, God became one of us through the Incarnation. But God takes us up in Jesus, so that our identity ends up being in and through him. Through losing our life in him, we can find our true selves, our true life.

In the end we do well to turn any passage over again and again, and be open to all kinds of ways it may apply into our lives, so that the original question might become a moot point. Let us do so this Holy Week, as we seek to see anew and afresh what our Lord went through in his unique once for all suffering for us, and as we pray that we somehow might come to share in his sufferings, that we may also share in his glory.

 

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