‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ (Matthew 16:15).
The question came at a turning point in the story of Jesus. For two years Jesus had demonstrated to his followers that he meets all the prophetic credentials of the Messiah. His popularity with the common people was immense, and opposition against him by the religious establishment was reaching a fever pitch. In response, Jesus leaves the region of Galilee and begins a year long journey toward Jerusalem and Passion week.
Having traveled north of the Sea of Galilee, into the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his friends the critical question found in today’s text. He sets the question up by first inquiring what other people are saying about him. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The answers include John the Baptist (risen from the dead), Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. Then Jesus changes the questioning from the theoretical to the personal. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Over the years, I’ve heard quite a few sermons preached on this text. They usually are targeted at getting people to come to a point of decision about who Jesus is, in a personal way. Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask about their opinion, “Who do you think I am?” He asks for a decision, “Who do you say I am?” Peter speaks for the group, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.”
My hunch is that for most of you reading this, you have come to your own conclusion about the question, and the majority of you agree with Peter. You believe that Jesus was and is the Christ, the Son of God. I believe this. Having settled this issue, we need to ask ourselves another question. “Who do you say I am?” “Wait…”, you are probably thinking, “That is the same question!” Correct. But go deeper. Ask if your heart and mind really believe this in a practical, pragmatic way at this very moment?
Are you anxious today? Are you feeling stressed? Does the looming fiscal cliff make you fearful about the future? Are you convinced the world is going to hell in a hand basket? Are you furiously cruising the shopping mall to buy things you can’t afford for people you don’t really like? Does your checkbook reflect that you don’t own anything but are only a steward of God’s resources? Are you too busy to spend time alone with Jesus in prayer and fellowship?
You can probably come up with your own list of questions. I find that at the moment, my answers don’t always reflect that I really believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and is intimately involved in every moment of my life. “Who do you say that I am?” Imagine Jesus is asking you this question today. Does your answer match your actions and attitudes? Put a “?” on your hand today to remind you to periodically repeat this little exercise.