I clearly remember the first time my brother and I got permission from adult friends of our parents to call them by their first name. Even though Steve and Connie told us that it was OK, it felt disrespectful and wrong to stop referring to them as Mr. and Mrs. The ways that others refer to us carry meaning, often describing the nature of our relationship. In addition to our given names and our nicknames, we are referred to in other ways: dad, mom, wife, husband, son, daughter, sister, brother, grandparent, co-worker, friend, boss, Dr., teacher, neighbor, etc. These titles define who we are in relationship to other people.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each recount the story of Jesus asking his disciples "Who do people say that I am?" He was asking what the crowds of people who had been following and observing Him were saying. And then Jesus got personal, and directed the question to the disciples - those who had been with Him throughout His ministry - "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus knew what was ahead of Him. He knew that fulfilling God's mission would be difficult and dangerous. Jesus understood that the disciples had to understand, personally, who He was or it would be impossible for them to fully follow Him.
If we want to follow Christ, we, too, must answer the question that Jesus poses: "Who do you say that I am?" I recently asked a number of people for their answers to that question. The responses varied: Jesus is....Savior, love, teacher, the Son of God, rabbi, friend, the example of how we are supposed to live, one who felt human suffering, comforter, role model, ever-present, justice, the truth-teller, healer, protector, non-judgmental. Our answer to Jesus' question is dependent on how we have experienced Jesus in our lives and in the world, and it impacts whether we are willing and ready to follow Jesus into the world. How do you answer the question?