But what about you?” he asked, “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15, NIV
The question that Jesus asks His disciples is not only relevant to His mission, but is of eternal importance to each of them personally: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Who we are as individuals is very significant to us, and how others perceive us is as important; we want to be taken seriously and know that we are seen for who we are by those we interact with, especially those closest to us. How much more did this apply to Jesus in His situation?
Jesus had come to earth for a divine purpose and it was extremely significant to Him to know what the disciples, whom He’d called by name, and who were with Him daily as He taught and ministered, believed about Him. They were the ones who would continue His mission when He returned to His Father.
For Jesus this answer was of far greater significance than to that of His previous question that He’d used to introduce it: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) He would’ve expected the variety of answers the disciples gave Him regarding the curious outsiders: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14)
Like today, many people didn’t recognise Jesus for who He is. They saw Him as someone with a powerful, spiritual message – but not as God incarnate. In this post-Christian era, major religions may regard Jesus as a prophet with great moral teachings that they adhere to, but others, without any spiritual beliefs, who may see Him as delusional, or ignore Him completely, along with any other concept of God. Yet to the Believer, He is God incarnate “through [whom] all things were made… the light that shines in the darkness ...” (John 1:3,5)
It‘s Peter who confesses, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”, responding not only to the words Jesus has testified to, “I am the bread of life”; John 6:35) “I am the light of the world”; (John 8:12) “I am the gate for the sheep”; (John 10:7) “I am the good shepherd”; (John 10:11) “I am the resurrection and the life”; (John 11:25) “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) but to the Jesus he has seen in action and deeply believes in, as did Martha before Jesus resurrected Lazarus. (John 11:25)
Jesus confirms that God alone has revealed this to Peter, and calls Him apart from the others as “the rock” upon which “[He] will build [his] church”, and the one to whom He “will give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”. (Matthew 16:18-19)
Jesus says to us: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Our response to Jesus’ question is as significant to Him as Peter’s or Mary’s was. He came to this world for each one of us, whoever we are; He came to set us free, to “[justify] us by his blood” (Romans 5:9) and enable us to “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”. (Romans 5:2)
Do we know Jesus as an exemplary moral teacher, or as the Son of God who loved us and sacrificed His life for you and me?
It makes all the difference.
Prayer: Holy Father, may you give us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that [we] may know him better … that the eyes of [our] heart may be enlightened in order that [we] may know the hope to which he has called [us] …” (Ephesians 1:17-18) Amen