The storm’s approaching / I’m standing high and dry / Firmly planted on the Rock that is higher than I…I am on the Rock, the sure foundation…I am on the Rock, His revelation / I am on the Rock, though the winds may blow and though the floods may grow I shall not be moved – Petra, I Am On the Rock, from the 1990 album “Beyond Belief”
One of the major questions that floats among the stories of the gospel accounts demands to know who Jesus is. It stands to reason that if you can answer that question, you can explain how He is able to do the things He does. It’s a question that still echoes through the corridors of time to today. It ranks up there with other existential inquiries such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” I would argue, though, that to answer who this Jesus character is aids in answering all the other questions.
So far, Jesus has been telling people in Matthew’s gospel account to keep His identity a secret and not tell others about the conclusions they have reached. Why? Psychologists have speculated that the best way to get people talking about something it to insist that they don’t talk about it at all. Maybe that’s the angle Jesus is taking here. Maybe it’s something else. I don’t know. In any event, at this point in chapter sixteen, Jesus raises the question Himself and asks His disciples what they’ve heard others saying about Him (v. 13).
The disciples answer with the great names of prophets from ages past: John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. Someone like that. One thing is for certain: Jesus isn’t fishing for compliments here. He has a definite agenda to asking this question based on the question He asks next.
“But who do you say I am?” (v. 15).
There it is. That’s the heart of the conversation. That’s what He really wants to know. It’s not that He isn’t aware of what others are saying about Him. He already knows what others think. He is deliberately confronting His own disciples and probing them for their take on His identity. It’s almost like He’s saying, “That’s nice they think I’m Elijah or Jeremiah but who do you say I am?”
That’s the question He asks of all of us sooner or later, and our response determines our destiny in the next life. There are only a handful of possibilities for an answer. Theologian C.S. Lewis stated we can only reach one of four conclusions and they all start with the letter “L”.
- He is a Legend – He never really existed. He’s a mythological figure like Zeus or Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. One would have to ignore historically verified documents that state otherwise to hold this position.
- He is a Liar – He allowed Himself to be called the Son of God and claimed equal footing with God knowing He was full of crap and none of it was true.
- He is a Lunatic – He allowed Himself to be called the Son of God and claimed equal footing with God, when He wasn’t, but was delusional enough to believe it was true which makes Him crazy.
- He is Lord – He allowed Himself to be called the Son of God and claimed equal footing with God because it’s all true.
The apostle Peter, perhaps my most favorite disciple because I completely identify with the roller coaster that His life represents during His time with Jesus, blurts out, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). As a result, Jesus calls Peter blessed because God had revealed that information to him. Then He goes on to say that He will establish His church upon this rock (petra – a play on the name of Peter). It’s a sign that at least the early church will be built on a firm foundation (Himself, the Christ).
At this time of the year, in part where we claim He is the reason for the season, who do you say He is? Upon what are you building your life? My late maternal grandfather used to “witness” to friends by saying, “If I’m wrong about Jesus, there’s nothing to worry about. But, if I’m right, Jesus makes all the difference”. It’s not just about what’s beyond the grave, if anything, but also about the here and now. I would assert there is nothing better than starting a new year with a new direction in life. It’s easier than dieting and promising to exercise more. Like Peter, it’s simply determining the answer to a question Jesus is still asking, “Who am I?”