Many times in life you have people who seem very close to you and even assume to know you but really don't know you. In most cases there's usually a difference between who people perceive you to be and who you really are. A lot of people are depressed and sad because they've been made to suppress who they really are in order to fit into who people perceive them to be. Whilst their true personality is crying out for expression their perceived personality is crying out of frustration of not being able to live up to these expectations.
Jesus Christ in our passage today was asking his disciples, his close friends, the ones who should know him some very vital question and it would help us if we look closely at this discussion between these people and Jesus
Jesus asked his disciples who do men say that I am?.. If Jesus wanted an honest opinion of how people perceive him and his ministry I wonder why we his followers shy away from people who give their honest opinion about us. You must have people in your life who tell you as it is without being afraid to hurt your ego. Effective ministry would require you getting a honest and balanced feedback (good or bad) from the people you're ministering to. Some say you're John, some Elias, some a prophet- everyone of these suggestions were good but none of it represented adequately who he was. People would always have varying idea of who you are or what you're about which might not necessarily be accurate. Infact, many have fallen to the trap of trying to live up to people's skewed opinions of them. So, people say you're the most anointed and powerful man of God or prayer warrior they've ever met and you know between you and God that you're not as big as they perceive you to be but you just play the part. Nothing wrong with people complimenting you but everything is wrong with you living in the compliment. On the other extreme some people conclude they are useless and worthless based on who people said they are. As much as it is important to know how people see you, it is most important how you see yourself. People see you from different perspectives and make conclusions based on their understanding of who they think you are or who they think you should be - never ever be distracted by people's perception of you. Jesus did not waste time trying to correct the people's perception of him. We waste time, energy and grace trying to proof to people that we are not who they perceive us to be. It is useless, fruitless and frustrating because people's opinion about you would always change with time and circumstance anyway. Never lose yourself or what you represent in the stormy wind of men's opinion! Some would like you, some would hate on you, some would be indifferent, as long as it doesn't stop you achieving God's purpose for your life it is not worth breaking a sweat for. Who do men say that I am?
Beyond what the general public know about you there are people who should know you beyond what the public know. They may be your family, very close friends, confidants, associates, or even followers. It is hard to follow someone who you know next to nothing about. As a leader it is important to know how your close followers perceive you and your mission. Do they really understand you? Who do YOU say that I am? It is interesting to know that when they were asked about what people said about Christ it was easy for them to answer, some said you are this.. Some said you are that... They all had something to say. It is easier for us to talk and analyse what people say or do but then we get uncomfortable when the searchlights turn to us. Who do YOU say that I am! Stop analysing other people's mistakes and ignorance let's talk about YOU! Your problem is not what others say or do your problem is YOU! Who do YOU say that I am? All of them were silent except Peter when the question became personal. Who do YOU say that I am? I know Peter rescued them with his answer but I'm bothered that out of 12 carefully selected close followers of Jesus only one was knowledgable and confident enough to say who Jesus was confidently. James and John probably thought he was their passport to fame and political position, Judas would think this is his opportunity to make himself some quick money, Matthew probably saw him as an alternative to his crude tax collecting position. Now people would pay tax to him willingly. Philip probably only saw a signs and wonder worker. Thomas would be busy trying to find proof that he was actually born by a virgin. However the rest saw Jesus, it is obvious by their silence that they didn't really know Him. Oh even their reaction to him and around him showed they didn't know him. Remember how they kept the children away from him and he rebuked them, remember how Thomas mocked him when he told them he was going to raise Lazarus, remember how they tried to shut blind barthmeaus up, remember how they thought he was talking about physical bread when he was warning them of the leaven of the Pharisees. Though they left all to follow him they didn't really understand him. People can follow you closely and not know what you truly stand for. Don't ever mistake people following you or hanging around you for loyalty or allegiance. Afterall, Judas followed Jesus closely! Infact married couples would tell us that there are still things about their spouses that they are just finding out after 10-20 years in marriage. Hence I'd forgive the disciples who had only been with their master for 3 years. The most important point in this verse of the scripture for me was that these guys knew who other men said Jesus was but didn't have their own personal revelation of the saviour. This right here is the bane of our 21st century, new age Christianity. Many Christians today know what their pastor is saying about God but have never sought to know this God by themselves. Many would quote what this or that man of God said what year he said it and how he said it but never what God is saying to them. People are gradually building again what Christ came to die for. When Jesus died the veil that separated us from directly going to him was torn from top to bottom. Since then the high priest lost their jobs but the present day Christianity has brought back the veil and the high priests are back in business. In order to remain relevant the ministers now take on the responsibility of advocating between God and their followers. Hence the followers never get the benefit of being taught how to seek God for themselves. Who do YOU say that I am? Do you have an experiential knowledge of this God you profess? Or are you satisfied to feed off someone else's personal revelation and interpretation of who God is? Who do YOU say that I am? It was this personal revelation of Jesus given Peter by the Holy Spirit that Jesus said he would build his church upon and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Which tells me that God can not build any enduring thing with you if all you have is second hand information of who he really is. Seek God for yourself! The reason why most of us are losing the battles of life, the reason why the gates of hell is prevailing against the church is because our churches are full of men and women who have built their faith on another person's revelation and not their own personal revelation. That's why people keep laying ambush all over the place for men of God trying to get them to pray for them. That's why false prophets are taking advantage of us. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge! Hear me and understand my heart, there's need for us to be taught and pastored and guided by shepherd but we must also grow to have a personal knowledge of the one who has called us or else we would remain babies for ever, tossed about by every wind of doctrine.