At one point in Jesus’ ministry he asks the disciples who people were saying he was. “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’” Jesus came back at them and asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Peter steps forward and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commends Peter, saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 16:13-20)
We may not appreciate how astounding Peter’s declaration was. The Jewish people had been waiting for centuries for the coming of the Messiah. For almost a millennium the prophets of Israel had been predicting the coming of a Messiah, the “Anointed One.” The Jewish people had built up high expectations who this Messiah would be and what he would do in terms of delivering Israel from its enemies. Some unknown itinerate preacher from a remote location like Nazareth would hardly meet their expectations.
It is clear from Jesus’ initial response that the disciples’ first answer was not satisfactory. They couldn’t get by with mouthing what other people were saying, even though that is how Jesus posed the question. He wanted to hear what they thought and believed.
As Jesus did with the disciples, so he does with us in asking, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Are we just going along with what others say, with what our parents and the church said about Jesus when we were growing up, or have we truly digested what others say and what scripture says, and have decided for ourselves in our words and actions that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God?
This decision is not without its cost or sacrifice, for Jesus shortly thereafter tells the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and following him means following his teaching, his example of sacrifice and God’s will for our lives.
Yesterday we celebrated a day to remember the hundreds of thousands of men and women in our armed forces who have sacrificed their lives so that the rest of us might continue to live in the freedom of this nation’s founding principles of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
May the daily actions of the rest of us who claim Jesus as Son of the living God, also reflect a sacrifice in the love of God and the people in our lives.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)