And 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 told Him, 'John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; and others, one of the prophets?' And He asked them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered Him 'You are the Christ.'Mark 8.27
Who am I? It's a game we play in catechism. The purpose of the game is to acquaint students with biblical characters. Here's how you play: Students are assigned a character, then they read up on that character - prepare and write clues and when ready, stand up and ask 'Who am I'? Then they would read the first clue, and continue with their clues until someone guessed their identity. It's a fun and effective way to learn.
Jesus might seem to be playing the same game when He asked,
Who do people say that I am? The disciples have heard the rumors and speculation; they know what people have been saying. Jesus question is an easy one to answer. They are not at a loss for words.
Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, or one of the prophets.
Jesus then rephrased the question, this time requiring a personal answer.
But who do you say that I am? This question is personal on more than one level. In the first question Jesus is asking about people, about what others say and think. In the second question however, the focus changes. Jesus is not asking about the crowds back in Galilee. Rather he is asking about the people right there, those He is looking in the eye. And, if for the moment you will allow yourselves to be in that circle, Jesus is asking you.
As to the question itself, He makes no veiled or hidden reference. He uses the pronoun 'I' Who do you say 'I' am? Peter boldly declares, 'You are the Christ' And all the choirs of heaven must have burst forth in song, as in Matthews Gospel when we hear Jesus say to Peter, Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. But my Father who is in heaven. Jesus is saying, that the fact that you believe, is a gift, a gift from the Father in heaven. The key word is gift.
The hard part for Peter, was not in answering Jesus question, but in living the answer. And Peter did. We know that. The question that still needs to be answered is, 'Who do we say Jesus is?' The answer to that question determines what we believe - and what we believe determines the impact that Jesus is making on and through our lives. Or to put it another way, how we 'live out what it means to be Christians' what it means to be sons and daughters of God. And Jesus does not leave that to chance. Boldly in this Gospel Jesus declares,
If any would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
So if the world and the things of this world are hostile to God, if the standard of the world is to love those who love us and hate those who hate us, then you and I are called to go against the stream, to be bigger than that. Isn't that what Jesus has begun to point ahead to with His death and resurrection. That first Christ, the firstfruits, and now all who are baptized,
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him., Romans 6.6. Isn't he pointing us to His goal and purpose for His church, forgiveness, life, and salvation? There's our purpose, there's our mission.
Our Lord is inviting us to stand before the cross, and consider all He has done for us. And given that we are in the season of Lent, to behold and consider our Lord's passion and ask, 'What does it mean to me?' What it means will be evident in your life, in your worship, in your offerings, in your love for your neighbor, and much more.
So, as Jesus asked His disciples, 'Who do you say that I am?' Yes, 'Who do you say that I am?' What joy He has as He hears each one of us in word and deed declare with Peter, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'
~ Pastor Kelly G. Mitteis