Last week my dog decided to join me on the sofa for a cuddle – as she often does. She positioned herself in the cutest, funniest, and loveliest pose. Never one to miss an instagrammable opportunity I reached for my phone, took a couple (or perhaps 20) photos in quick succession and captured the moment ready to share. I didn’t post the photo and I admit that I deleted it purely for vanity reasons. Yes, my dog looked perfect, cute, and hilariously funny. But I looked like a sack of potatoes, startlingly close to the camera, and frighteningly reminiscent of Shrek or Albert Steptoe. I know I only have a few followers, mostly friends, but I still try to manage the version of me that people see on my profile.
What would people think if they saw me in an off-guard moment? Who would people say that I am? No filters. No editing. Jesus asks exactly this question to his disciples: who do people say that I am? It is important to remember that he is asking this question immediately after they have returned from an evangelistic mission. He is keen to know what kind of picture they have painted of Jesus on their missionary travels. The answer comes back ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah;
and still others, one of the prophets.’ Question asked, answer given. You might even think it is not an unreasonable answer. Jesus stands in a long line of prophets. Good job.
But having answered Jesus, he then asks the real question, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ It was probably quite easy to answer about what others think, but suddenly this is very personal. Jesus asks the disciples for their personal answer. Just as he does today to us. We can probably give a good text book answer – the answer we think or feel we ought to give. But who is Jesus for us? Who is Jesus for me?
Peter answers Jesus, ‘You are the Messiah’ thinking again he has answered well, but when Jesus explains what this messiahship entails – suffering, rejection, and ultimately death – Peter pulls back from his answer quickly and is rebuked. The reality of the picture Jesus paints is a far cry from the picture Peter had created in his mind. This Jesus, the Messiah, was to suffer and die, and having already committed to follow him, Peter’s reality dawns on him, that he will also follow this path.
The path of discipleship is costly: it involves pain and suffering, and it involves us letting go of ourselves in order to be filled with the risen life of Christ. But this cost becomes life’s great gift: when we suffer Christ is with us, when we are broken Christ is with us, when we are rejected, Christ who himself was rejected, broken, and mistreated is always with us, transforming the suffering into salvation.
The real Jesus – the Jesus we proclaim to the world – is the messiah who suffers and dies in order that we might live. He asks you and me today, who do you say that I am? No filters, no editing. Our answer matters.
- What picture do you paint of Jesus to others, your friends and neighbours?
- Jesus speaks to you now, ‘who do you say that I am?’