Jesus asked a number of very poignant questions. Perhaps near the top of the list is a question he asked of his disciples some two years into their relationship–“Who do you say that I am?”
But notice the context of the question in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus began the conversation by asking them first, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
It’s pretty clear from the preceding context that Jesus knew the answer to this question. In other words, he didn’t ask it for his own benefit, but for his disciples’ sake. It’s sort of like when a parent asks a child to clarify, “What did you just say?” Of course the parent heard it the first time, they simply want it to be a teachable moment, so they ask the child to consider their words. Or, another example would be when a parent walks in on their child coloring their bedroom walls with a permanent marker, shouting, “What have you done?” Well, it’s pretty obvious isn’t it? Here I am, marker in hand… the writing’s on the wall (pun intended). In asking the question, a parent is offering a chance–think about it!
Jesus asks the question so the disciples can think about it. Some say John; others say Elijah; still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Pretty flattering. It’s like being a golfer and mentioned in the same breath as Tiger Woods–impressive company. But are any of those answers correct? Do any of them go to the full length of capturing Jesus’ true identity and the extent of his role?
Consider what people are saying.
Think about the answer to that first question in our day. Jesus is pretty popular. He get’s mentioned every so often on the Oprah Network. You get mentioned by Oprah–you’ve arrived! Bono says nice things about him. Madonna used to. Why, just about everyone on the Country Music Awards show thanks Jesus.
In the political realm, Jesus gets air time on both sides of the aisle. Conservatives think of Jesus as their best friend and Liberals think of Jesus as a prime example to follow. There are books out about Jesus being a proponent of capitalism, and books that propose Jesus was the ideal picture of socialism. He’s everywhere and he’s everything.
Jesus invites his followers: think about it. Then he brings the matter home. “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?”
Notice the big but. While it’s good to consider and reconsider what others say (or believe), the real heart of the matter is… well, a matter of the heart–your heart. But what about you?
A good Rabbi? An example to follow? A spokesman for God? A caring soul? Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”
The book of Hebrews declares that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword; able to penetrate to the dividing of spirit and soul, joints and marrow, and to discern the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
This question from Jesus–is all that! So, what do you say?