Summary: Saying that Jesus is our Lord and Savior demands that we back up our words with actions.
Matthew 16: 13-20 “Who Do You Say I Am”
During the past four weeks, we have been attempting to pose questions rather than provide answers. It is helpful at times to ask ourselves hard questions. They help us get our bearings and make sure that we are headed along the path that we want to walk to achieve the goals to which we feel called. The questions we have asked have been, “Where are you?” “What have you done?” and “Where is your brother/sister/neighbor?” Today we ponder the question, “Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus asked his disciples this question when they were at Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi was the farthest point north from Jerusalem. It was the place were several contrasting religions—Canaanite (Baal), Egyptian, Greek and Roman—had places of worship. This story also took place just before Jesus turned south and headed toward Jerusalem and his destiny.
Jesus first asks who the people think he may be. The disciples answer that people are speculating that Jesus might be the reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah, who was prophesized to precede the Messiah, or one of Israel’s great prophet. No one had figured out that Jesus might be the Messiah, because Jesus was so different from the Messiah that they were expecting.
After listening to what the people around the countryside thought of him, Jesus asks his disciples, “And who do you say that I am?” They are silent except for Peter who says, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God.” Peter had been walking with Jesus for three years, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is finally revealed to Peter who Jesus really is—the Messiah for whom Israel has been waiting.
There was a greater difference between the fact that Peter made a confession and the general populous conjured up mere speculation. Along with Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the Christ came the commitment to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. The speculation of the people cost them nothing and affected their lives very little. Peter’s confession (and the confession of the church that followed) cost him everything and changed his life completely.
Today we can follow the example of the people and only speculate who Jesus might be—keeping an open mind for other possibilities. We can worship God, sing song of praise, and listen to sermons and prayers, while hesitating to make a commitment—wanting to keep our options open. Without the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the commitment to become his disciple, there is little or no motivation to commit our time, talents, or treasures to his service—let alone our lives.
If we are brothers and sisters of Peter, though, we receive the revelation that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God; that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. We also open ourselves to the life changing possibilities that such a confession opens to us and commit ourselves to live in its reality by committing our lives—time, talents, and treasures to loving love God, serving and neighbor, and experiencing the abundant life that is ours.