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 Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
~ Matthew 16:13-20
Jesus has been walking with the Disciples for some time now. They have known hunger, hatred, joy, suspicion, welcome and rejection, just to name a few things. They have witnessed many things. They have watched a man step out onto water, witnessed a group of friends lower a man on a mat through the roof, only to watch him take up that mat and walk away, as well as, spoke to a man who was once dead. At the end of one of those amazing days, Jesus looks at the group who has walked with him, and camped and slept next to him by the fire, and asks, "Who do you say I am?"
"Some say you are..."
Jesus listens to what "others think," but then he redirects them again, "Who do you say I AM?"
The two words that God uttered to Moses on the mountaintop as a proclaimed name, now refrained into a question among a misfit group of men.
Years ago I read the book, "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time," written by Marcus Borg. The book invites us to explore different periods of our life and discover who Jesus was to us at that age. As young people, we all have a similar image. Jesus, the Good Shepherd with sheep, or a man with long hair welcoming children.
The image begins to change as we experience more things in the world. For some as an adolescent, they begin to see Jesus as an "enforcer," creating rules with consequences, as we learn that there are results to our decisions.
As adults, many find it hard to embrace an "image" of who Jesus is because as adults, we view the world so different from one person to the next person, and so, Jesus becomes the image of who we need him to be.
In the moment that Jesus is turning to the Disciples, he is just simply wanting to know who they believe him to be, and they begin to fail miserably until Peter musters out the right response, "You are the Messiah. The son of the living God."
Oh, to have the right answer!
Today the question that Jesus asked all those years ago remains relevant. The number of people in the world has grown, and so has the number of responses describing who Jesus is today.
As a youth, we would often laugh that there were only three correct responses in church, "Yes," "No," and, "Jesus."
Our ability to say who Jesus is to us also helps to describe our relationship as well. During Lent, it is important for us to ask this question of ourselves. Who do you say that Jesus is? And in what way does Jesus manifest himself as the living Christ in you?
Fortunately, there is no right or wrong answer. The presence, relationship, and understanding remains both personal, and continues to change as we do.
As I shared this past Sunday with a group, God may remain the same "yesterday, today and tomorrow," but our need for God continues to change with each season of our life.
We need to redefine the question as Jesus did with the Disciples. It is not simply asking who Jesus is, but rather, "Who is Jesus to you today?"
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.