How would you answer this question?
Today, I stood in a place believed to be the location where Jesus asked His disciples that famous question in Matthew 16, "Who do people say that I am?" After reading Scripture over the years, I've learned that when Jesus asks a questions, it isn't because He doesn't know the answer. It usually represents a strategic point Jesus is making to cause us to see and recognize the truth about Him or something He's up to.
Having the opportunity to be physically present at this location in Caesarea Philippi truly brought home the importance of what Jesus was asking. The context of that question was, I believe, two-sided. First, Jesus knew He was making waves and people were talking. This question was a way to probe His disciples to see who may be influencing them. A second context was, I believe, the fact that Caesarea Philippi was a pagan area with many false god and idol worship. Jesus was placing Himself in stark contrast to the false ideas of divinity and worship of His day.
His disciples fumble around with some answers, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus turns the corner on His disciples with the "question behind the question." Jesus takes the general and broad and makes it specific and personal. He asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus did not allow His disciples to dodge the personal response to Him. He was driving them to a point of professing their faith in Him. They had seen enough miracles and life-changing teaching. They had experienced His love and kindness. Now Jesus was asking them to profess what they believed about Him. Notice Jesus did not ask, "where do you stand on homosexuality?" or "what do you think about the political climate?" or "What do you think about legalizing Marijuana" or "do you believe the Bible?" I truly believe that Jesus knew if we get the right answer regarding who He is, then all the other answers to all the other questions tend to fall in place.
Predictibly, Peter voices a response, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus affirms that answer by reminding Peter that he did not come to that conclusion except by God's divine revelation. This is true for you and me. No one simply confesses Christ. We need God to reveal to us who Jesus truly is. I would encourage anyone who struggles to believe in Jesus to pray the bold prayer that God reveal to them who Jesus is. Jesus goes on to tell Peter that upon this "rock" He would build His Church. This "rock" was the foundational confession Peter made that Jesus was the one, true Messiah. The character and nature of Jesus is the bedrock of our faith. This is a foundation that cannot be achieved any other way or secured through any other source. So, there the stood a group of disciples in a whirlwind of people's opinions about Jesus and in the shadows of a pagan temple and God uses Peter to bring much needed clarity.
I believe it is vital that we revisit Jesus' soul-piercing question regularly. "Who do you say that I am?" Even for those who have professed Jesus as Messiah, Savior and Lord should weigh our lives against that declaration. Do we live by our profession or have we slipped back into people's opinions or the worship of lesser things? I also believe there are many who live in the false comfort of simply not answering. It feels safer not to weigh in. It feels more comfortable to wait to see what others say. We ought to all take a page from Peter's playbook and blurt out our answer. I pray that this question will haunt you as it did that day for Jesus' disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"