Home » Pastor Peter » Who is Jesus Christ for us today?

Who is Jesus Christ for us today?

What a great question.

Like so many that can take you beyond. Or back. The way they make you stop. Legs cemented. Mind spinning.

Maybe not unlike the one that Martin Luther once framed in the catechism: “What Does This Mean?”

I remember being frozen by the Rev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s question from an Nazi prison in 1944: “Who is Jesus Christ for us today?”1

I read it over and over.

Bonhoeffer’s central bother, his primary wonder, and his greatest concern summed: “who Christ really is, for us today….”

That is: How does Jesus’ for-us-ness really take on our lives and our neighbors? How does Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension matter for a particular twinkling of existence. For the light and mass that we inhabit. Right here and right now.

When Bonhoeffer penned these words from his cell, he had been incarcerated for just over a year, arrested in a plot of resistance to the Third Reich. The theologian and pastor had been an outspoken critic of the genocide of the Jews and the church that mostly approved of this appalling distorted theocracy that had spawned in his homeland.

But what emerges from his writings, his notes, and letters is this challenging clarity about the gospel.

Not fanatic. Not extreme. Not Otherworldly.

But laser focused. Measured. Thoughtful. Honest wrestling.

Who is Jesus Christ for us today?

Who is Jesus Christ for us today—especially when today looks terrible. When the world is suspended by cascading global, civil, and inter-personal wars. When there is incredible suffering and loss of life and the complete disregard for law, or justice, or dignity, or mercy, or truth. Much of it sanctioned in the name of Jesus.

This was Bonhoeffer’s time. A moment that lives now as one of the worst of the worst of what we can do to our human family.

And it is also what allowed Bonhoeffer’s view of post-modernity and “Jesus’ for-us-ness” to take on new depth and meaning, as he was moved from prison to multiple concentration camps. He saw Christ’s cross in opposition to the unspeakable evil of the world in his own experience and he also saw God’s embrace to suffer alongside us in Jesus.

Bonhoeffer lived this in his opposition to the Nazis and saw this as our never-ending journey of discipleship.

To stand with and alongside the suffer-ers of the world. To take on God’s suffering too.

Bonhoeffer’s question, of course, continues to point us forward. Wherever suffering still lingers, God is there. And so too will we find our clarity.

I invite you to journey with us through February as we lift up one of the great Lutheran martyrs of modern history in our Adult Faith Forum on Sundays at 11 a.m. on Zoom (see Pages 6-7). We will also be lifting up a variety of resources for deeper study.

May you ponder Bonhoeffer’s over and over and anew:

Who is Jesus Christ for you and for us, today?

Pastor Peter

1 Letter to Eberhard Bethge, April 30, 1944

Facebook livestream >
Online worship >