The gospel reading for this day is Matthew 16: 13-20. You might want to have that handy to follow as we walk through this lesson together.
Jesus and the apostles are once again found away from their northern Israel homeland, perhaps 25 miles north of the Galilee, in the region of Caesarea Philippi. The nearby city of that name was expanded by Herod’s son, Philip, and renamed for Caesar, without whose favor no ruler in Israel could stand. While there, Jesus asks a question of the apostles: “Who do the people say I am?”
From their answer it is apparent that no one in Israel has a clear idea of just who the Promised One might be. Prophet? Priest? John the Baptist risen from the dead? Scripture taught that God’s Chosen One would appear but how, and when, and in what form? And then Jesus asks more directly – “Who do YOU say I am?” Peter, always the first to speak, proclaims not only that this Jesus is the Son of God – they had acknowledged that in the boat during the storm (Matthew 14) – but that “You are the Christ!”
In the person of the Christ Peter recognized the savior of mankind, the one who would defeat sin and death and the devil. Jesus replies that no flesh and blood supplied that truth, but our Father in heaven revealed it to Peter. And He said, speak that truth to no one, just yet.
There is more in this reading than that, of course but perhaps the greater question for us here, now is: Who do YOU say Jesus is? Is He your personal Lord and savior? Is He the only one in whom you put your faith, as He points us to our Father God through the Holy Spirit? Is He the Christ through whom your sins are forgiven, in whom your life in heaven forever is assured? How we answer that direct question from Jesus reflects the values of our lives, and speaks of the gift of eternal life toward which our faith leads.
Who do YOU say He is?