Back in the day, things were simpler, or were they? When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am? Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16: 13-16)
Jesus begins by asking the disciples who people think He is. There was a lot of confusion about who Jesus was. Jesus was certainly a teacher who commanded a large and growing following. He was able to perform miracles and so for many He was the greatest show in town. The religious leaders of the ancient world were following Him, because they saw Him as a threat to their religious status quo.
The misconception of the people was clear in the answer the disciples gave. The crowds were impressed by Jesus’ personality and miraculous power, but as powerful as He was He couldn’t possibly be the long-awaited Messiah. They still regarded Him as nothing more than a forerunner,
What about our day? Who do people think that Jesus is? Many have the picture of Jesus as the meek and mild shepherd gently holding little lambs in His arms. For some Jesus is like the compassionate country doctor who always shows up in an emergency. For yet others He is just someone who gets in the way of how we would like to live. We have made Him a convenient god by shaping Him into the image we want. And, if He doesn’t fit our idea then we simply discard Him. We now have a whole generation of people who are growing up outside the church, giving Jesus and religion no thought whatsoever.
As Jesus listens to Peter’s response. He gets personal… but who do you say I am? Peter answers Him with these words, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Did Peter have this giant “Ah ha!” moment quite suddenly? It was only after a number of encounters that Peter was able to respond with the words of his conviction. It is clear that many events took place to bring Peter to this point.
Jesus asks each of us this same question and He expects an answer. The answer can be I don’t care. I don’t know. You’re a good teacher. You’re a good role model. You’re interesting.” The answers vary. However, when we come to the place where we say, you are who you say you are. It is only then when our lives begin to change. Did the confession set Peter on a lofty spiritual plain from which he never came down? No, one of the great lessons for us in Peter’s life is that it was a rugged journey with lots of turns and twists.
The important question is still the one that Jesus asks us today! Who am I? The “simple” piece of the story is the question that Jesus asks and our response to it. The “not simple” piece is the living out of that changed life because it doesn’t follow the script we have in our minds.
The Word became flesh, so let’s get some skin in the game!