In the summer of 2020, as protests against racial injustice swept across our country, Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, interviewed Ruby Sales, a notable woman of faith who has spent her life working for justice. Two of Sales’ close friends, C.T. Vivian and John Lewis, had recently died. Jacqui Lewis asked her, “What made you who you are?” Ruby Sales answered that it was the church. The church instilled in her the certainty that she was a beloved child of God. “We were taught that we were somebody before the world told us we were nobody.” The assurance of who she was to God brought her a sustaining perspective through difficult days. Her striking response reminds us of how powerful the church’s work of introducing children and youth to God’s spirit-forming love can be.
John is not interviewing Jesus as he writes his Gospel, but these verses suggest that as he presses the quill on the parchment, he may be pondering, “What made you who you are?” What makes Jesus faithful to a mission that seems humanly impossible? What makes him love his disciples to the end, even when all of them waver in their devotion and one viciously betrays him? What makes him model his commitment to serving their needs at the moment when anyone facing a cross could justify acting self-absorbed?
God gives Jesus the assurance of who he is before the world tells him who he is not. Knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God was enough (v. 3).
Who has made you who you are?
God, help us embrace your definition of who we are, no matter what we hear otherwise. Amen.