Who Do You Say That I Am?
Open Your Bible
Matthew 16:13-20, Psalm 113:1-9, Isaiah 9:2-7, Hebrews 1:1-3
Last week, my friend Jonathan and I were exchanging messages on Instagram. He recently moved to Austin, Texas, and I was eager to hear stories of good fortune that would render such a gutsy move successful. “Are you seeing lots of fruit in your new life?” I asked. As soon as I’d asked the question, my expectations felt too narrow. I wanted “fruit” to mean visible, positive affirmation of the right choice. Instead of answering directly, Jonathan shared some meandering thoughts typical of his introspective personality. “There’s never enough fruit to me. I heard Matthew McConaughey say that Austinites should focus on contributing more than consuming. I think he nailed it.”
My friend then put the question back on me: “So, how would you define fruit?” I was grateful for the push-back but also low-grade irritated—mostly because I didn’t feel like using my brain that late in the day. Now I had to confront, and possibly deconstruct, what I thought I meant, because my friend was just shrewd enough (and kind enough) not to leave me holding onto a half-baked idea.
Jesus loved a good, piercing question. Certainly, some of them were rhetorical, leaving people in a tongue-tied state like the ancient Near Eastern version of a mic drop. Some of them required a response right then and there. All of them were meant to go straight for the heart. “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” Jesus asked His disciples while in Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).
At the time, there were lots of rumors about who Jesus was: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah (v.14). The disciples knew from the Prophets that the Messiah would have a “vast” dominion and establish a kingdom with “justice and righteousness” (Isaiah 9:7), but they didn’t know how this would play out specifically.
Jesus didn’t ask the disciples who people thought the Son of Man was because He needed to know. It was a tool for unearthing His second question: “But you… who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). In the end, it doesn’t matter what everybody else thinks. Each of us must answer Jesus’s question for ourselves.
Simon Peter was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, “the Son of the living God” (v.16), and Scripture tells us that he didn’t just get the answer right by chance. It was the Father, not “flesh and blood,” that had done its work in Peter and revealed this divine knowledge (v.17).
I’m so grateful for Jesus—and for thoughtful friends on Instagram—who ask penetrating questions that have our best interests in mind. Ones that weed out hearsay, clichés, and half-truths to get to the important questions somewhere below. I’m grateful that our Lord is always most concerned with our one-on-one relationship with Him and longs for us to seek and trust His voice above all others.
“So, how do you define bearing fruit?”
“Who do you say that I am?”
These questions lead to the type of knowledge and divine connections that Christ is building His beautiful Church upon.