taking the words of Jesus seriously

Anyone who spends any time at all on Facebook has seen a proliferation of giraffes on the site recently. For a few days, I noticed but didn’t pay much attention, but when one of my good friends turned into the long-necked, spotted creature, I read her status to see what was going on. It was a game based on a riddle. If I knew the answer, I was supposed to send it to her in a private message. If I got it right, she would acknowledge my intelligence in a comment under her status. If I got it wrong, I agreed to change my profile photo to a giraffe for 3 days. I’ve always been pretty confident of my intelligence, so I sent her what I was sure was the correct answer. My confidence was misplaced, and I was soon searching for a picture of just the right giraffe.

I was surprised at the interest the riddle stirred up. After I re-posted it, I got messages quicker than I could respond to them. Comments and “Likes” on my posts about the game were fast and furious. If only my writings aroused as much interest!

Riddles aren’t a new phenomenon. I didn’t do any research on their origin, but I remember from my earlier Sunday School days that Samson was a riddler. In Judges 14 he posed a riddle with consequences that went much further than being seen as a giraffe for a few days.

In the New Testament, Jesus spoke in parables that some though were as confusing as riddles, but in Matthew 16 he asked a couple of direct questions:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,  “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them,  “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied,  “You are the Christ,  the Son of the living God.”17 And Jesus answered him,  “Blessed are you,  Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,  but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you,  you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loose in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

– Matthew: 16:13-20

Peter was certain of his answer, at least at the moment. During the turmoil and fear that surrounded the crucifixion, his faith waivered, but he eventually remembered his answer, and his faith solidified into the rock Jesus acknowledged.

Facebook games come and go, and your participation has no real significance. But the question Jesus asked his followers still hangs out there for each of us to answer: “But who do you say that I am?”

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