Summary: "But what about you...who do you say I am?" Peter gave the correct answer to that question from Jesus to his disiciples. Our life and our eternal destiny are dependent on our answer to that same question.
In the fall of 1999 ABC launched a television game show that quickly became the #1 rated television program in the country. Hosted by Regis Philbin, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? hit the airwaves and soared in popularity. Airing three nights a week during primetime it seemed that Americans just couldn’t get enough of the new game show.
Perhaps you remember how the game was played. Once a contestant settled into the “hot seat” the goal was to answer 15 multiple-choice questions correctly in order to win the final prize of a million dollars. Of course the questions got progressively more difficult. Each question was worth a specified amount of money, and the contestant always had the option of “walking away” and not giving an answer after being presented with the question. In that case, their game ended and the contestant was awarded the amount of money that he or she earned for his or her previous correct answer. You may recall that the contestants on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? were also given three lifelines if they needed help to answer one of the questions. In the original show they could choose “Ask the Audience,” “Phone-A-Friend,” or “50/50.”
Although you won’t win a million dollars if you answer this question correctly I am wondering if someone here can tell me the tag line that each contestant had to give before the correct answer was revealed. Regis Philbin would ask, “Is that your final answer?” Then the contestant would state his or her answer to the question and say, “That’s my final answer.” At that point there was no going back and changing and answer. The correct answer was revealed and the contestant either advanced to the next question or he or she had to leave the show.
In our Gospel Lesson for today we heard Jesus ask his disciples a couple of questions. Unlike Regis Philbin Jesus wasn’t going to give them a million dollars if they answered correctly. No, through his questions he wanted them to receive eternal life through faith in him. He then led them to realize that correct answers to his questions would have consequences in their lives for time and for eternity. He wanted them to give their “final answer” concerning who he was and what he had come to do for them.
Jesus’ questions are still important. And today he wants each of us to give our “final answer” to one main question concerning who he is and what he has done for us. Giving the correct answer about Jesus and believing it in our hearts won’t win us a million dollars. It will bring us all the unbelievable things God has promised to give to those who become his children through faith in his Son. May God the Holy Spirit enable us to answer the question printed in our service folders:
“WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?”
I. In light of the facts about Him
II. In light of the effects of your answer
When we look at our Gospel Lesson in the broader context of Jesus’ life we quickly see this event as a turning point. Because of his preaching, his teaching, and his miracles Jesus enjoyed a period of popularity among the people. But things were about to change. People were beginning to turn away from Jesus because he wasn’t the kind of Savior they had been hoping he would be. They also found many of his teachings to be too offensive to accept. Soon Jesus would be betrayed into the hands of those who hated him, suffer horribly, be crucified and die. So before he entered the final phase of his mission to save mankind Jesus wanted his disciples to correctly answer the question, “Who do you say I am?” And he wanted their correct answer to be their final answer no matter what happened to Jesus and no matter what they face in life
Luke gives us very little background information for the specific circumstances surrounding Jesus’ loaded question to his disciples. “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” With an “ask the audience” approach to the question Jesus asked the disciples to state the things that they had heard about him.
So why did it matter what the crowds thought of Jesus? Having the disciples state what others were saying about him would help separate the facts about him from the fiction that was being said about him. The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” Although each of these answers regarding who Jesus is might have seemed plausible to many people they were all incorrect. King Herod had executed John the Baptist because of his preaching against his immoral living. And yet because of Jesus’ powerful preaching people thought he might have actually been John the Baptist raised from the dead. In Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets the LORD had said that Elijah would prepare the way for the Savior. It turned out that John the Baptist fulfilled that prophecy. But instead of accepting Jesus as the Promised One and John as the Elijah who was to come they thought Jesus was only preparing the way for the Savior. That certainly is ironic. And finally because Jesus spoke God’s Word with authority many thought he was an Old Testament prophet that had come back to life. One could argue whether or not these answers were reasonable or silly but in the end they were incorrect.