Who is Jesus?
Once, when Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Caesarea Phillipi, on their way towards Jerusalem, Jesus paused to give his disciples what today we might call a reality check. “Who do people say that I am?” he asked them.
“They say you are John the Baptist,” one of them replied. Someone else said, “Elijah,” while others said that he was seen as “one of the prophets.” But then Jesus asked, “But what do you think? Who do you say that I am?”
Now that’s an interesting question. Did Jesus really believe that his own disciples were not sure who he was? Or was he testing them? What do you say? I guess that surely his twelve closest followers would know him pretty well. Yet Jesus asked them, “Who do you think that I am?”
I wonder how quickly the disciples answered this question. It seems to be easier to answer the first question, “Who do people say that I am?” I know, I know. We answer rather quickly. My mother said this, my friend mentioned about you this way and my neighbor once said this. But, the question that demands our own opinion is not easy to answer. “What do you say that I am?” Maybe that is why Jesus asked the question, “Who do YOU say that I am?”
It is important for every disciple of Christ to answer this question for himself or herself: Who is Jesus to you? It may take some time, or some days to answer for some of you. Some may answer right away.
Who is Jesus to you? Is Jesus merely an ancient teacher who has good life lessons to listen? Is Jesus a man with a mighty healing power? Is he a itinerant preacher? Or is he truly the very revelation of God, God made flesh?
Jesus asked, “But who do YOU say that I am?” One of the disciples, Peter, had the right answer. “You are the Messiah!” he said. How does that sound to you? Is that how you would have answered Jesus’ question? Can you say with an honest and open heart, without reservation, that Jesus is the anointed one by God?
It was when Peter said that Jesus was the Messiah that Jesus revealed to the disciples the final journey of his ministry on earth. He spoke very plainly, and very clearly: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering,” he said, “and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
Peter, the man who had just recognized Jesus as the Messiah, was shocked by these words, and he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. Now ‘rebuke’ is a harsh word. It basically means that Peter scolded Jesus, yes, Peter scolded his master, and told him he was wrong. It was almost as if he were saying, “Look Jesus, enough of this nonsense. Let me tell you who you are and what you should do!”
And this brings us another point that we must recognize today: We must accept Christ on his terms, not ours.
Joni Eareckson Tada. She A diving accident in 1967 left her, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, without the use of her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills, including painting with a brush between her teeth and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. She is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, working as an international advocate for people with disabilities.
When she became a quadriplegic, Joni felt her whole world collapse. She was only seventeen years old. She found her condition impossible to reconcile with a loving God. And for three years after the accident she was bitter and questioning.
One night, one of Joni’s closest friends was sitting with her and trying to help her through her despair. Something must have inspired her that evening, because all at once she said, “Joni, Jesus knows exactly how you feel. You aren’t alone in this. Jesus was paralyzed too. Remember how He was nailed to the cross? His back was raw from being beaten, and He must have yearned for a way to move or redistribute His weight. But He couldn’t. He was paralyzed by the nails, unable to move.”
That was a moment of revelation for Joni. After that, she was no longer angry with God, and she felt Him become incredibly close to her.
How often do we think, like Simon Peter, we know best how God should or shouldn’t go about His business? Do this or do that, O Lord, and we know all will be fine and we all will be well.
But Peter would soon discover that we can’t do this. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus said to his friend, Peter. “For you are setting your mind on the world, and not on the divine.” Christ was telling Peter, rather bluntly, that he needed to get back in line, for he was trying to put himself in front of God.
Eugene Peterson translates the 34th verse in this way, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.” You are not in the driver’s seat: I am.
Yes, each of us must decide for himself or herself who Christ is, and, if we accept him as our messiah and our savior, then we must let him lead and let him be in the driver’s seat and follow his lead.
And then we have the last question to answer, “Are we going to live for ourselves, or will we live for Jesus?
Shortly after this exchange with his disciples, Jesus spoke to the crowd on the same subject. He spoke about what it means to be a follower. “If any want to become my followers, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Now this is a very difficult thing for us to do. It is difficult because our culture tells us from our early childhood “be your own person,” “strive to be number one,” and “you deserve the best.”
Our culture tells us persistently, “It is your life. Do all you can with all you can to seek your own happiness.” We are busy trying to secure and achieve what we want. Aren’t we?
But let the words of Jesus challenge us. “What will it profit you to gain the whole world and forfeit your life?”
“Wake up and see the way you live before too late!” Jesus sounds like saying, “the way to true happiness, the way to self-fulfillment, is not through self-gratification. The way to be happy is the way of the cross. The way to fulfillment is not by saving your own life, but by saving the lives of your neighbors. I will suffer and be rejected by the world, and if you want to follow me, you’ve got to do the same.
You’ve got to quit thinking about what will make you happy and start thinking about how you can give yourself to other people. You’ve got to give up your driver’s seat. You’ve got to deny yourself and follow me.”
When we give ourselves to others like our Messiah did, when we share with others Christ-like love like our Savior did, we are doing what Jesus wants us to do.
This is what living for Jesus is all about. This is what following Christ is all about. This is what it means to take up the cross. This is the secret ingredient to abundant and joyful and happy living.
Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus to you? Is he the Messiah to you? Is he sitting in the driver’s seat? Or is he someone to hear about on Sunday? The choice is yours.
But Jesus is waiting for us. Are you welcoming him as your driver and follow his lead? Will you live for yourself or for Jesus?
Now I would like to invite you to pray the covenant prayer with me and make commitment to live for Jesus.