Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
If you’re involved in sales, no one tells you the truth when you ask them a question. You don’t start getting near the truth till the 4th or 5th question. You have to ask again and again. Sometimes in different ways, coming at their need from several different directions.
Jesus asks his disciples what the people in the crowds are saying about him. In particular, he wants to know who they think he is. The disciples might be thinking about what Jesus wants to hear, or what he doesn’t want to hear.
How do we slant or twist our answers so that we give people what they want to hear? Or avoid what they don’t want to hear? Could we be just like the disciples?
After Jesus keeps asking and asking, they start to come out with the answers. And it’s quite a list.
· John the Baptist – this must have been a popular story. We saw that Herod thought this about Jesus. To be John the Baptist, he would’ve had to come back from the dead. I wonder if people were curious if his head was reattached or if he grew another one?
· Elijah – before the coming Messiah, the Jewish prophecies say that God’s going to send Elijah back to earth.
· One of the prophets – prophets are people that speak for God. They are not sure or specific about which one, but it had to be someone from the past. After all, God stopped showing up in powerful ways some time ago. Since God no longer works like this, it must be a blast from the past
Jesus now closes in. He goes from asking about the crowd to his circle of friends. Those closest to Jesus certainly must have an opinion. But not just any opinion, but an informed opinion. They saw him every day, and at times when no one else was around.
Which brings up the question, what would those closest to you say about you? Those who see you early in the morning. Those who see you when your buttered toast falls peanut butter and jelly side down, making a spectacular Jackson Pollock-esk design on your rug. Do you rant and rave, crying out to God, “Everything is against me!”
The people that were closest to Jesus, those who had the most information, the most experience, the most data points, came to the conclusion that was the most radical. Their observations of his words, actions, miracles, interactions with people, rebuking of spiritual leaders, his total personality and humanity, led to the answer that they had been searching for all their lives.
You are the Messiah. While their view of what Messiah meant may have been a bit twisted, they were still absolutely correct. They believed that Jesus was anointed and appointed by God not only to lead them spiritually, but to change the lives of all his people
Saying that Jesus is the Messiah aligns him with King David’s prophecy. David saw and predicted that God would send a king to Israel. But not just any king, but a king that would sit on his throne forever.
Now, to sit on a throne is one thing. But to sit on a throne forever is something altogether different. There is only one person who can do that, and that’s God. Agreeing that Jesus was the Messiah says that he is also God in the flesh.
How much of this did they understand is anyone’s guess. But that’s ok. We all make statements of faith without fully understanding it all, or all its implications.
When someone gets married, I can assure you that they don’t fully understand everything that is going on. Nor do they fully comprehend the full extent of the promises and commitments they’re making. Or the promises and commitments that the other person is also making.
And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Faith isn’t about understanding; it’s about driving a stake into the ground and making promises.
The disciples put a stake into the ground, saying that Jesus was their divinely appointed leader, God come down for them and all of Israel. But Jesus as Messiah is oh so much more.
So, what about you? How big is your Jesus?