“Who do the people say I am?” Jesus asked his disciples as they walked along headed for the villages around Caesarea Philippi.
“Some say ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”
He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”
Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.” (Mark 8:27-29)
If the same question was asked on the street here in South East Asia, likely answers would include: Jesus was a good man, a teacher, a prophet or that Jesus is the founder of a foreign (western) religion. It is easy to agree that Jesus was a good man, a teacher and a prophet and of course much more. But to have Jesus referred to as the founder of a western religion, makes me very uncomfortable and sad.
After all, Jesus is more Asian than European simply because Israel, the country He lived in, is part of Asia. Interestingly, the cultural milieu of the Bible often makes much more sense for Asians than westerners. Concepts such as honor, shame and patronage were part of everyday life at the time of Jesus and they are still a very integral part of life in much of Asia today.
So it is sad to think that somehow over the course of history, Jesus and his teaching have been presented in such a way that makes Him look more European than Asian (or African or south American for that matter). One of the many challenges for us called to share the Good News here in Asia, is to convey that Jesus wasn’t the founder of a western religion but rather he is the king, ruler and Saviour for everyone in the world.
Ilkka serves with his wife Maree in South East Asia.