'Who do you say that I am?'
Read: Matthew 16:13-20 (This is the Gospel Reading for Sunday, Aug. 23)
“Who do you say that I am?” This question from Jesus is right in the middle of Matthew’s Gospel. It’s meant to be the key question for us to consider.
Have you ever noticed how people remember where they were when significant events happened? Perhaps you’ve heard the question, “Where were you when ____ happened?” Sometimes the reference is to momentous historical events – things that remain in our collective memory.
Other times significant personal happenings are referred to such as when you got engaged or heard you were expecting your first child.
So, Matthew mentions that Jesus and the disciples were in the region of Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked the most significant of questions.
First, Jesus wonders if the disciples have been paying attention to what other people might be saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples’ response shows they have been listening, at least to some extent. “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah. …” And, in truth, none of those are bad answers, but they all stop short of realizing the complete identity of Jesus.
So, Jesus poses the question directly to the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”
If they have been paying deep attention so far, they would know that he is “Emmanuel – God with us.” They would know that he is one who can work miracles such as feeding a large crowd of 5,000 with supplies that seemed only enough for five. They would know that he is the one who can walk on water and one whom wind and waves obey.
The disciples are deep into their education about Jesus, and Peter speaks up to say, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Peter is praised for his answer! He realizes that Jesus is more than a man, more than a prophet, more than a teacher. He is the Messiah! He is the Savior!
Matthew writes his gospel in a style that is meant to speak to us as well. The question to the disciples answered by Peter is meant to jump off the page across the centuries for us to answer. “Who do you say that I am?”
Who do you say that Jesus is? Perhaps you have answered this question well and completely at some point in your life. Maybe you can still remember where you were when you first professed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Perhaps some important life event or relationship helped you make this most important realization.
For others, maybe the journey of faith has been more circuitous and gradual, but you still have that deep conviction that “Jesus is Messiah, Lord, Savior.”
Perhaps some need to consider the question freshly today. “Who do you say that Jesus is?” That is the key question!