Matthew 16: Who Do You Say I Am?

“What about you?” he asked them.  “Who do you say I am?” (16:15)

This may be one of the most important questions of all time.  Maybe this is the question that all people must grapple with and answer.

For the Pharisees the answer was simple: Jesus was an ally of Beelzebub (12:24), even though all of the signs were there for them to know otherwise, Jesus says in today’s passage (16:3).

For Herod, Jesus was John the Baptist back from the dead (14:2 ;16:14).

For the masses, after two miraculous feedings, Jesus was a free meal (14:13ff; 15:29ff).

For some the disciples had talked to, Jesus was another great prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah (16:14).

For the disciples, Jesus enigmatically pushed them past the literal (16:7-12).

For Peter, Jesus was the Messiah . . . but not the right kind.  Jesus was the vanquishing savior here to whip up on the Romans, not die on one of their crosses (16:16, 22).

We grapple with the same question today.  Ask around.  Jesus is a prophet, a wise man, a great teacher, a crazed lunatic, a egomaniacal liar, a carpenter turned revolutionary, a revolutionary turned lover of Magdalene, a hippie, a homosexual, a partier, a beaten up hero in a violent bloodbath, a scapegoat for Jewish nationalism, a healer, a handsome emotionless guru, a meek milquetoast whipping boy, a misunderstood leader, a rabbi, a philosopher of love, a Republican, a Democrat, a Communist, a Capitalist, a vegetarian, a figment of Paul’s imagination, or some other permutation next week when another book, movie or YouTube video comes out.

Albert Schweitzer is famous for saying that the quest to determine who exactly Jesus was, apart from the Bible, is a futile one.  It is like looking down into a well; all we see is our own reflection looking back.  People have a tendency to mold Jesus into whatever we want him to be, and in the end he ends up looking a lot like us or at least what we would like to be.

Looking ahead to the account of the Transfiguration in the next chapter, God will weigh in on the matter:

Then there came a voice out of the cloud. ‘This is my dear son,” said the voice, “and I’m delighted with him.” (17:5)

Still, the question is before us today: “Who do you say I am?”

How do we fashion Jesus after our own image today?

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Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Matthew 16: Who Do You Say I Am?

  1. Pingback: Defining Jesus « The Daily Bible Plan

  2. pastorkaty

    Hi Jason, I’ve been trying to come up with a graphic for a message series I’m doing in the fall, and I ran across the one you have in this post. Did you design this graphic, and if so, would you mind me using it for our website and bulletins (we’re a small church)? If not, could you tell me where you found it so I can request permission to use it? Thank you!
    Katy
    Faith United Methodist Church, Austin, TX

  3. I like the interplay between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asks Peter “Who do you say I am?” Peter answers and confesses his belief that Jesus is the Messiah. Then Jesus says “And now I am going to tell you who you are, really are.”

    Something changes when we recognize Jesus for who he really is. When Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior, our belief changes us. We become a different person. Could it be that there are aspects of our identity that we do not realize until we join our souls back with its Creator?

  4. Eddy

    The same sort of thing stood out to me here. At the end of the chapter he adds to that when he says, Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” The way of Jesus is truly a life of paradox.

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