CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: ‘But who do you say that I am?’
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’
- Mark 8:27-38
And there it is: the ultimate question. It could not be clearer, plainer or more direct. Jesus, up close and personal with his disciples, asks them the most important question of their lives. But this is not the only time Jesus poses this question. Jesus asks each of us, the disciples who walk on earth now to do his will, to answer, too.
The answer, well, that is a deeply personal, undeniably unique and ultimately profound. Your answer is about your relationship with Christ. Who is he to you? Who do you want him to be to you? How will you foster this relationship? What are you willing to do for this relationship? Where and how will you live out this relationship?
Perhaps in a church or a place of worship you have seen a poster with the title,” And He Shall Be Called . . .” illuminating about 50 different names for Jesus in the Bible. (If you are unfamiliar with it, take a peek.) As a young adult seeing this for the first time, I realized that I had never given this much thought. I realized, then and now, that the Bible has much to say about who Jesus is, naturally.
But, again, the question now is yours. What are your words?
Jesus did not need the disciples to tell him who he Is. Jesus, undeniably, knows who he is. Jesus is not having an identity crisis. Maybe, Jesus is looking for that gut reaction, that immediate instinctive thought. Jesus realizes the disciples are going to be tested as his time on earth draws to a close and after his ascendance to sit at the right hand of God. Jesus, sometimes, answers a question with a question as a way of guiding. In asking, Jesus is leading the disciples to think, to discern, to speak, to prepare.
First, Jesus asks the disciples what others say about him. Isn’t that something we ask each other all the time: “What did so and so say about me?” The disciples respond easily enough, with a slew of speculations. But then Jesus turns the question to them, quickly—perhaps even to their surprise: “Who do you say I am?" Ah, so much harder a question. Now they are put on the spot. They have to answer. For Jesus, what the world thinks does not matter anymore. But what his followers think, feel, embody does matter. Oh so much how it will matter. They will be his hands and his feet. They will be charged with carrying on the ministry. They will be responsible for the future of Jesus’ message. They will be the founders of the church. The world will present huge obstacles. Their belief, their commitment, their ability to endure is paramount.
Now, the time is upon the disciples to claim and proclaim Jesus’ identity for themselves. Per usual, our friend, Peter, jumps rights in—no thought, only impulse. Voila! This time, Peter hits a home run. His words are epic: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
The Gospel of Matthew gives us a little more of the conversation:
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ (Matthew 16:16-19)
Jesus proclaims quite emphatically just how important Peter’s statement is: Jesus’ identity as the Messiah and the Son of God is the foundation, the corner stone, on which the church is built. With the laying of the corner stone, the work of the people, our work, begins.
For me, Jesus is the Light that keeps me from the darkness. He is the Word made Flesh. He is the I AM.
In proclaiming Jesus, I often lean on and lean into the words of King Darius in the Book of Daniel 6:25-27:
Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: “May you have abundant prosperity! I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth; for he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Take a moment for yourself. Step outside, hold your face up to the warm September sky and lift your hands high. Let Jesus know from your heart and soul, Who do YOU say I am?
Patricia Hamilton is the executive assistant to the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus