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." And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. — Mk 8:27-30
"Who do people say that I am?" That's a scary question to ask. I don't know that I would have the courage to ask my friends that-- to know what people say about me when I'm not around. I have frequently wrestled with even the concept that people might possibly be talking about me. I remember as even a young girl, I would play would-be scenarios in my head, trying to come up with every possible idea of what people might say about me, so that I could preempt my fear of anyone saying something disparaging or hurtful. Jesus isn't concerned about this. Who they think he is is in line with a prophet of old, people highly revered by the Israelites. But the follow up question, "who do YOU say that I am?", that's proving that Jesus is wanting to know what the people closest to him think, after all they have observed and witnessed and experienced alongside Him.
Peter seems to becoming the spokesperson for the disciples, he's usually the one that is answering the questions Jesus poses, and this is no exception. I am humbled by Peter's answer, too, because it seems to come with an air of confidence, firm in his understanding of who Jesus is. "You are the Christ." It's not a question, "are you the Christ?" or something less confident like "you're the Christ, correct?" "You are the Christ." To say that goes beyond what the crowds are saying. Sure, it's flattering to be compared to people like John the Baptist or Elijah or the prophets. But the weight that comes with being the Christ is infinitely more powerful. And it also means that Peter's belief in Him is much more serious and devoted than the crowds.
Even for us today, this question is so relevant. I hear and see frequently what people think about who Jesus is. Social Reformer. Feminist. Republican. Democrat. Family Advocate. Defender. Prophet. Wise Teacher. People today have a broad, vast, sometimes contradictory view of who Jesus is. But who do YOU say that he is? It's critically important to know the answer, because it effects your entire life. David Platt says this:
“Who you say Jesus is will determine everything about how you follow Him. If you think Jesus was a good teacher, you will follow Him like you would a good teacher. If you think Jesus merely had some good ideas, then you will listen to what He says every once in a while. If you think Jesus was a good example, then you will try to follow His example. However, if you believe that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah who came to the earth to save us from our sins, to conquer sin and death, and to reign and rule over all as Lord, then that changes everything about how you live. The church is made up of people who believe in that Jesus and know Him intimately. Do you know Jesus intimately?”
The crowds thought Jesus was a good teacher, a good example, even a prophet. And their answers were reflected in their lives. But Peter and the disciples knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and it changed their entire lives forever. They left everything from their everyday, normal, comfortable lives, and followed Him wherever He went.
Does what you believe about Jesus actually reflect in how your live your life? I want to challenge all of us, myself entirely included, that if we really believe alongside Peter that Jesus is the Christ, then our lives should radically reflect that. We should be willing to put down everything, to take up our cross, and follow Him wherever He leads. But often, I don't think we really believe He is the Christ. We only believe to a point-- we believe He's a good teacher, so we pick and choose the teachings we would like to emulate, the ones that fit into our lives. We believe he's a good example, so we find the examples that seem like they're feasible to follow, and we may try to implement them for a while. But I'm telling you, unless we believe that Jesus is the perfect Messiah who saved us from our sins and made a way to the Father for us, the one the prophets spoke of in the Old Testament, we are never, ever going to be radically changed. We are never going to be willing to trust Him with our lives, and follow Him wherever he leads. The way isn't clear, and it isn't easy, but when we realize who Jesus is-- it's worth it.
Dear God, So often I am scared to admit who I know you to be, because I know what the cost is. But that just proves my lack of faith. God, help me in my unbelief, that I might know you more fully and know you in your death resurrection and what that means for my life. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dig Deeper: Who do YOU say that Jesus is? How does your life reflect your answer?