Who Is Jesus?
Imagine yourself as Peter. You’re not an educated man, you really can’t express yourself as well as others, but somehow you know something in your heart–as well as your mind–more clearly than all the others. You know the answer to the question Jesus has posed to all of you: “Who do people say that I am?”
The others, your friends who were called to follow Jesus at the same time you were–who have been listening to him, hearing the truth that he speaks, and seeing the miracles he has worked–still have not quite gotten it. They answer, “You are John the Baptist, or “Elijah.” But when he comes to you, you blurt out excitedly, “You are the Messiah.” You see in his eyes that you have answered the question rightly. You feel good, even thrilled.
Then Jesus starts talking about how he must “…suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes; and be killed, and rise after three days.”
You are disturbed by these words. You think, “he is too young.” You think that if his followers hear him speaking this way, they will turn away from him. He has so much more to do, so many others to help. You are older, maybe you should advise him not to talk about such things so openly. You pull him aside gently to speak to him about it in private, indeed, to rebuke him from such words.
Jesus hears you, then turns around to look at his disciples, and before them all, he rebukes you! You hear him saying, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” You are stunned. You feel the sting of that rebuke. But you know, too, that he has said this to wake you up, to take you to yet another level of knowing who he is.
Of course, you know that you are not the Enemy. You know Jesus loves you, but you needed to be shown that he is who you said he is. He is the Messiah. With that understanding, you can no longer think of him in the way you do about other men. In worrying about his physical well-being, or worse, about his reputation in human terms, your concern shows itself to be of this world, not of the Kingdom of God that belongs to the Messiah.
Then he challenges you to go even further away from Satan’s concerns for material comfort and reputation. He says to you, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” You hear these words and know that they are directed at you; that you have been invited into something far greater than you had ever imagined. You know at some level that, though he has directed these words to the crowd, they are meant for you—intimately and directly.
Of course, you realize that this whole passage, inviting you to imagine yourself as Peter, was meant to be more than an exercise in imagination alone. These words of Jesus to Peter are spoken to us as certainly as they were to Peter. He is looking us in the eye at this moment. We can see his love, his challenge and his confidence in us when he says them. He knows how much we are tempted to think in human terms. He knows how seemingly “reasonable” it is to consider the fears of the world, things like: “How will people see me, or treat me, if I do as Jesus wants me to do?” But he also knows what our truest destiny is, and that we are worthy of it. He just asks for a little faith. He will do the rest.
We know that Jesus is who he said he was. We know that he is the Messiah, the Son of God. We also know that when we see Him, we see the Father. He is the whole truth. He is unconditional love. He is mercy unlimited. He showed us that suffering is going to come to us for following Him, for going against the “wisdom” of the world. But like Peter, He never asks us to do what is beyond our capacity. We can deny the foolishness of worldly pride and possessions; we can, indeed, pick up and bear our crosses. We can not only desire to follow him, we can do it with a little faith, a little courage, and with his generous grace.
Our times, though 2,000 years distant, are the same as Peter’s. For God, all time is the eternal now. He is as present to us individually in this broken, suffering world today as he was to Peter then. Believe then, and act. God, the loving giver of infinite grace, will be the invigorating force behind all the good you do in Jesus’ name. Thanks be to God!
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.