“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked His disciples. And the answers were what you would expect from this motley group of first century Jewish men. “Some say John the Baptist.” Some, most notably Herod Antipas (who had been set up to behead John the Baptist in the first place) believed Jesus to be John the Baptist back from the grave. This is a confusing thought since Jesus and John were not only relatives but had parallel ministries and were even interacting at Jesus’ baptism. “Others say Elijah.” Jewish history and lore suggested that Elijah would come again (remember that he never died, but was taken to heaven in a firey chariot, so “raised from the dead” isn’t exactly accurate). When he came, he was to be the herald of the Messiah, as in fact John the Baptist was. So if Jesus wasn’t acting very Messiah-like, maybe He was just the forerunner, paving the way for the military and political ruler they all were waiting for. “And still others, one of the prophets.” If Jesus wasn’t even paving the way for the coming hero-Messiah, then maybe He was just one of the great teachers, a prophet, bringing God’s messages to the people like Isaiah and Jeremiah of old.
“But want about you? Who do you say I am?” Was the silence deafening? Did the disciples stare at their sandals? Were they still so unsure, after all they’d seen? Or was Peter simply the spokesman, speaking for all of them? “You are the Messiah,” he states simply. Jesus is trying to keep this fact secret, probably to avoid a premature arrest, though He knew that was coming. But I hope the disciples felt the same way we do upon hearing this question. “Who else could He be? After all we’ve seen and all He’s done, who else could he possibly be?”
For us, maybe an equally needed question to ponder is embedded in the first. As Christ-followers ourselves, we have already proclaimed, “You are the Messiah” or we can’t call ourselves His followers. That’s what it means to be a Christian. For us, maybe the question is not “Who do you say I am?” but “Do you say that I am at all?” Shifting from faith to action, from trust to evangelism, from commitment to fulfillment of the Great Commission. Can we truly call ourselves Christ-followers if we have to answer no to this second question?