If there is a single question that has shaped me and my faith, it’s a question Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 16. As Jesus was traveling with the disciples he asked, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” They offered a range of common responses, many of which reflect some modern ideas of Jesus. But then Jesus asked the question that, 2000 years later, has changed me from the inside out. “Who do you say I am?”
This question and our response are paramount for all who claim to follow Jesus. How we answer this question determines how we regard Scripture, how we respond to the call of Jesus, and the extent to which we live out this thing we call faith. If faith is in a name, a book, or a set of rules then we live without hope and life. If our faith is in Jesus then our lives begin to reflect his character and his heart.
Jesus was very good at asking questions. He had a way of looking straight at the heart with his words. It seems he was very interested in the answer when he asked this question, “Who do you say I am?” And his response to Peter’s answer went beyond, “yes, that’s correct” or “nope, that’s not quite right.” He said that Peter was blessed, not just for having the right answer, but because the Father in heaven revealed this to him. One might say Peter was blessed because God the Father had changed his heart, not just his mind. He could have answered the question in so many ways, just like others had done and still do today. He chose to give the answer that the Father revealed to him. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
As I contemplate his response there are several things that jump out to me. First, that this was a conversation between two men, two humans, two living and breathing persons. Jesus came not to be served but to serve, to give his life as a ransom on our behalf. Jesus is approachable and knowable. He’s not far off or unresponsive. He is present, God with us.
Second, Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus came to save, to redeem, to deliver. This was his mission. Not even a criminal’s death could hold him back. On the third day he rose and now we look forward to his return.
Third, Jesus is the Son of the living God. In a mystery that continues to confuse men Jesus walked the earth fully man, yet fully God. He had authority and power. He healed with a physical touch and from a distance. He calmed the storms. He walked on water. He took the sins of the world on himself. And he rose again on the third day. Only the Divine could accomplish these things.
If I were to have a face to face conversation with Jesus today and he asked me, “Who do you say I am?” I hope I would have the courage to answer as Peter did. A part of me wants to be my own Messiah. Too many days I say the things I don’t mean to say and I do the things I don’t mean to do. Too many days I come up with my own plan and later on ask God what he would have me do. Thank God for his grace and mercy – grace for the things I don’t deserve and mercy for not getting what I do deserve. I am so grateful his mercies are new every morning.
This is what I believe. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer. I believe that Scripture is true and accurate and that it is beneficial for teaching me just what I need to know about God and living in this world. I believe the grace, mercy and sacrifice of Jesus has saved me from a lifestyle of destruction and chaos in the hands of the enemy. And I believe that Jesus cares about how you answer this question: “Who do you say I am?”