March 23, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 22:66-71 (NRSV)
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought [Jesus] to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”
The religious leaders in Jerusalem seemed to be interested in Jesus’s “line” of work. Did he think he was the Messiah? Even the Son of God? But the authorities weren’t really interested in Jesus’s answers. They were trying to entrap him. In the season of Lent we have the opportunity to ask in a fresh way, “Who is Jesus?” We can go deeper in our understanding of Jesus and in our relationship with him.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
As a young boy, I loved watching the television show What’s My Line? with my parents. The premise of this game show was simple. A mystery guest would appear, someone with an unusual “line” of work. The panel of celebrities would ask questions to try and figure out what the guest did for a living. I remember how happy I was to see if I could figure out the mysterious “line,” which I almost never did. But it was fun, nevertheless.
In a way, the examination of Jesus in Luke 22:66-71 reminds me of What’s My Line? Now, to be super clear, what happened here was no laughing matter. But the Jerusalem authorities were trying to figure out the “line” of Jesus. And Jesus, like the contestants on What’s My Line?, wasn’t making it easy for them.
Of course there was also a difference in motivation. The game show panel was wanting to discover a secret for the sake of entertainment. The Jerusalem authorities were wanting to find a reason to put Jesus to death.
They asked Jesus first whether he was the Messiah. This question did not have a simple answer because, though Jesus thought of himself in messianic terms, his understanding of the Messiah’s role was different from the one that was common in the first century. Moreover, Jesus sensed that there was no point in trying to engage in a serious conversation about messiahship with his interlocutors. They weren’t interested in learning what Jesus was really all about.
The fact that Jesus brought up the Son of Man is not altogether surprising since he often used this title in reference to himself. The Son of Man (the Hebrew/Aramaic phrase can mean simply “human being”) was envisioned as a glorious figure associated with the future coming of God’s kingdom (see Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus, however, complicated these expectations by showing that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer, die, and be raised from the dead (Luke 9:22). In today’s passage, however, Jesus spoke of himself as the Son of Man who will be enthroned next to God (Luke 22:69).
It was shocking to those listening to hear Jesus associate himself with the glorious, powerful Son of Man. So they asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” (Luke 22:70). The title “Son of God” could be used in Judaism in reference to the human king of Israel (see Psalm 2, for example). But asking Jesus if he was “the” Son of God went beyond merely a royal title. The authorities were asking if Jesus claimed a uniquely intimate, authoritative, and glorious position in relationship to God. He didn’t answer with a straight up “Yes,” but rather with an unsettling “You say that I am” (22:70). Yet this was enough for the officials, who believed Jesus had incriminated himself.
We wonder what exactly was the crime of Jesus. From the Roman point of view he was a rabble-rouser who threatened the peace of Judea. But from the perspective of the Jewish leaders, Jesus had committed blasphemy by associating himself so uniquely with God. Even if he didn’t say unmistakably, “I am the Son of God,” he implied this. Plus, he had done and said things that were appropriate for God alone, like referring to himself as “lord of the sabbath” (Luke 6:5) or forgiving a person’s sins in an apparently blasphemous way (Luke 5:20-21). For Jews in the first century, the gap between humankind and the divine was expansive, and Jesus kept doing and saying things that put him on God’s side of the chasm. This was simply unacceptable to the Jerusalem authorities.
As I reflect on this story from Luke 22, I am reminded of the fact that Jesus’s identity and work should not be narrowed down, though Christians often do this. We embrace Jesus as our personal Savior, which is great, but have little sense of his royal authority and glory, which is not so great. We rightly celebrate the salvation Jesus offers after we die, but we neglect the presence of his kingdom on earth today. We rightly understand that Jesus was not the political messiah expected by his compatriots, but we ignore the implications of his authority for our systems and structures.
In this season of Lent, we have the opportunity to reflect deeply on who Jesus was and who he is and the difference this makes. We can take time to consider the different “lines” of Jesus, the different roles he both redefined and fulfilled in such amazing ways. And we can ask how our lives might be different if we took seriously who Jesus seeks to be for us.
Which of Jesus’s various titles and roles do you relate to most of the time?
Do you have any idea of what it might mean for you to take Jesus seriously as the Son of Man?
If you could sit down with Jesus and have a serious conversation about his “line,” what questions might you ask him?
With a good friend or in your small group, talk about who Jesus is to you. What do you believe about him? How do you relate to him? What questions do you have for him? How might you grow into a deeper relationship with him?
Lord Jesus, as I read today’s passage from Luke, I continue to be sad about what you had to endure. But I thank you for choosing the way of servanthood, the way of suffering.
I confess, Lord, that it’s easier for me to relate to you in some ways but not others. I’m thrilled to have you as my Savior and Friend. I’m more hesitant about acknowledging you full as my Lord. And I’m often unsure about how I should respond to you as the Son of Man. What I know for sure, Jesus, is that there is so much more room for me to grow in my knowledge and experience of you. There are so many more ways for me to live as your disciple each day.
So help me, Lord, to know you more clearly, to love you more dearly, and to follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Third Station: Jesus Is Condemned by the Sanhedrin
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.