Jesus: Who do you say He is?
It had all been going so well, right up until he posed that question. That morning they had set out with him again, as they were accustomed to doing. It had become a regular pattern in their lives; they had become settled in his company. It was nice, it was pleasant; sufficient to eat, enough to drink, and a good reception almost everywhere. A miracle here, a wonder there, signs of greater things to come, beautiful stories, basking in his glory. They had never been so contented in their lives. Life was good.
For all they knew, it might last forever. They had seriously started to consider making following him a second career. But then, suddenly, he turned to them and asked a question: “Who do people say I am?” There was no hesitation. They trotted out the usual answers: people say you are John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others still one of the prophets. So far so good. But then he turned directly to them and asked: “But you, who do you say I am?” They all looked at one another, looked at Peter, who finally blurted out: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God”. Well done, Peter. Not bad for an uneducated fisherman! That is what they all thought he was, or wanted to think. They wanted him to be the promised one, the messiah who will lead all the people towards glory and victory.
Jesus told them they were right and that the people were right, too. He was the messiah, as they thought. He was also a prophet, as the people thought. He then proceeded to tell them something else: that he would be rejected by the leaders of the people, the chief priests and scribes and finally by the people, just like all the prophets and prophetesses had been before him. He even told them how he would be tortured and beaten, humiliated, crucified and murdered. He also told them that he would rise from the dead after three days.
It was all too much. Where had all this suddenly come from? And where was it leading? They looked at one another again in puzzlement. Peter even took Jesus aside to tell him that all this should not happen, neither to him, nor to them. But Jesus turned against Peter, against them, and said: Satan, get behind me, follow me. Then he called all the people together and told them that they couldn’t be his followers without understanding that they would have to take up their crosses, as all the prophets had done and he was going to do. He told them they would have to forget about their own lives, if they wanted to save them; they would have to die before they really began to live.
So much for thinking they knew him! They must later have realised that everything had been leading up to that question: who do you say I am?
Two thousand years on, that question haunts us still. In fact, it is the only question that really matters and the answer we give determines the course of our lives in this life – and the next.