“Who do you say that I am?” – Matthew 16:15
As Jesus and the disciples entered Caesarea, Jesus asks them about His identity. We are unsure what prompted the questions. Luke tells us they were praying in private – perhaps Jesus was praying for the people of Caesarea. Or perhaps the disciples were murmuring about the identity of Jesus and He wanted to set the record straight. Regardless, Jesus asks them two very interesting questions: 1) Who do people say I am and 2) Who do you say that I am?
The first question deals with the popular opinion about Jesus. What is the general consensus about His identity? There are many opinions about Jesus including differing, opposite opinions. Within religions that claim the name “Christian,” there are no less than four major beliefs about who Jesus really is. Protestants teach He is the Savior and Mediator between God the Father and all Christians. Catholics view Him as so transcendent that a mere man cannot approach Him. Mormons teach that as a Son (not the Son) of God, Jesus and Satan were once equals. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is a man, but reject Him as God. So who do people say Jesus is? The answer is extremely varied.
But the truth is, there is only one “real” Jesus. He either was God or He wasn’t. Jesus was either Savior or not. Jesus either allows all believers access to God the Father or He doesn’t. There is only one true Jesus. Peter gives us an approved description of who Jesus is in Matthew 16:16 – “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!’”
In this one statement, Peter has demonstrated his own faithfulness to Jesus. How you answer the question, “Who do you say that I am?” is demonstrated by your obedience. And your obedience reflects your answer. Do you really believe that Jesus is the Messiah – the Savior of your sins? Do you really believe that He gave His life for you? Do you really trust that Jesus knows what is best for your life – even more than you know for yourself? Then why aren’t we living our lives in obedience to Him?
Perhaps you are struggling with your Christian walk. Why can’t I get motivated to study the Bible? Why can’t I find time to pray each day? Why can’t I commit to church more regularly? Why can’t I shake this sin? You are frustrated because you want to be more obedient, but you fail. The answer to why is simpler than you think – you don’t truly believe Jesus is who He says He is. You’ve learned that Jesus knows what is best for your life, but you haven’t fully accepted that His will is better than yours. You believe that the Bible calls us “enslaved to God” (Romans 6:22), but you’ve not given Him full control. Your obedience is lacking because your belief in the character of Jesus is lacking.
We tend to answer more like the people instead of like Peter. To us, Jesus is a religious figure that we should pay homage to. “Jesus died for me, the least I can do is live for Him.” But this makes our understanding of Jesus obligatory, not relational. We come to church “as much as we can” because we owe it to Him. We reluctantly fight sin because we have to, not because we want to. But Jesus is more than a religious figure. Jesus is the Messiah – the Savior who has come to give us a relationship with God.
Once we have a right perspective of who Jesus is, we desire to follow Him. Our service is not out of obligation, but out of love. When we know Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, the Savior of our sins, and the Lord of our lives, we willingly and wholeheartedly submit to His will. Salvation is found only when we have the right perspective of Jesus.
So, who do you say Jesus is?