“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?“- Matthew 16:13-15
Almost two decades ago, when my brother was in bible school in Southern India, he used to go to the nearby villages with his friends and tell people stories about Jesus. One day, he and his friends approached an older lady sitting outside her house and engaged in a conversation. One of them asked her, “Do you know Jesus?” To their surprise she answered, “I don’t think there is anyone named Jesus living on this street. Why don’t you check the next street?” As hard as it is to believe, she wasn’t joking. The old lady, having lived in the land of the million gods, had never really heard of the name Jesus Christ before.
Here, in North America, it seems like everyone has not only heard of Jesus but also have an opinion about him. Some say he is a good man and a great moral leader, better than Gandhi or Martin Luther king, Jr. Some say he is a prophet, but not equal to Mohammed. Some say he is one of the many ways to enlightenment. Some say he is a created being, not the creator himself. Some say he is one god among many. And many others say he is a good spiritual teacher like the Buddha, Confucius, or the Dalai Lama.
Jesus asked his followers, “Who do people say I am?” This is an easy question to respond to as it requires no conviction or commitment and all it requires is to listen to people, pay attention to the culture, follow the media and do some curious internet research – like I did to write this article.
But Jesus didn’t stop with that question alone. He followed the easier question with a harder one, “Who do you say I am?” This question demands a personal response with conviction and commitment. How a person responds to this question affects the way they see everything in this world and how they relate to it.
In the Gospel of Matthew we read that Simon Peter responded to this harder question saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter, with the help of God, understood that Jesus was not a mere man who claimed to be God, but God who became man to save his people from their sins as promised (Matthew 1:21). The more Peter became aware of who Jesus is, the more his life reflected it.
Today, it may seem like most people have an opinion about Jesus. But is it the ‘Real Jesus’ they are looking at? I think there are only three possible ways you and I can look at Jesus. He is either a crazy man or a deceiving man or the God man.
C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity writes:
“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool; you can spit at him and kill him for a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Friends, for over 2000 years, men and women, rich and the poor, kings, priests, farmers and shepherds and people from different cultures and ethnicities have chosen to follow Jesus and have stuck to their convictions and commitments and have risked and continue to risk their lives – not because he was crazy or deceiving, but because they believed heart of hearts that he is truly who he says he is – the only way to God – the God man who saves people from their sins.
So, who do you say Jesus is?
Jesus’ question is an invitation to you and I to stop hiding behind and stop being satisfied in the answers and opinions of others and answer the question on our own. And our response will affect the way we see ourselves, the way we will see this world and how we choose to live in relation to it.
As N. T. Wright rightly reminds us:
“The longer you look at Jesus, the more you will want to serve Him in His world. That is, of course, if it’s the real Jesus you’re looking at.”
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.