Whether talking with the disciples, speaking in a public forum, or defending Himself before His enemies, Jesus consistently asked questions. In the four gospels, Jesus asked over 300 questions.
But, who do you say that I am?
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
A few years ago at a son’s soccer game, a few parents began to talk about the new coach. As people began offering their candid opinions, it became clear that many parents were not happy with his coaching style. Parents were saying that even their kids thought he didn’t know what he was doing. One parent called him completely inept as a coach.
Even though I tried my best to stay focused on the game in front of me, because of where I was seated, the comments felt like they were flying across my lap and over my head. Hoping I could stay out of it all, I remained silent. But alas, one of the parents wanted to know what I thought. After all, my son was one of the older kids who had been coached under the old guard as well as the new.
Frustrated that I could no longer avoid the debate happening around me, I concocted the most noncommittal, sitting-on-the-fence responses that I could. Even though I actually had a very strong opinion about the coach, my great desire to stay out of the crossfire kept me from offering anything substantial.
Mix people with something controversial and a scene like this is inevitable. We often have just two options. We can say what we feel and do our best to defend our viewpoint. Or, we can try to remain a passive observer by listening without participating. Sometimes our unwillingness to say anything indicates that we really don’t know what we think. Maybe we haven’t felt the need or had the encouragement to formulate our own beliefs.
Perhaps this is why Jesus asks these two questions of the disciples. He gets them to talk about the popular opinions about who He is. As each of the disciples begin to share what the word on the street is, Jesus interrupts them and asks them to shift gears. He wants them to take a stand.
“But, who do you say that I am?” is a personal question that allows each of them to take their eyes off the perspectives of the majority to share what they are really thinking or perhaps even saying to others about who He is.
While I believe times are changing in the U.S., in many ways remaining a passive observer of Christianity is still relatively easy. We can attend a church or go to our weekly Bible study, yet when heated discussions about Christ or Christianity arise, we may refuse to say what we believe about Jesus. If we believe that He is the Risen One, the Son of God, then this impacts just about every divisive topic that is out there these days.
However, it’s far easier to move toward the fence in the middle and avoid exposure than to boldly state our opinions. But, if through a prayer of commitment, we have proclaimed that Jesus is the Risen Son of God and the only way in which we can be saved, then we must live and speak out this answer in a way that is consistent with what we have said before God.
Dear Lord, give us courage to tell the world who we say that you are.