Listen to Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, Who do you say I am?
18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
This week, on one level, we’ve seen “more of the same” in what Jesus is doing and how people are reacting to him. The crowds are following him: chasing him down, desperate for some time with this teacher and miracle worker who feeds them abundantly from nothing. We’ve seen this for weeks: people see Jesus’ amazing miracles, and they are desperate for some of the action. This week, however, the passage moves on from “what does Jesus do?” to a different focus: “who is Jesus?”. His miracles and teaching have been so unexpected, that this question has to be asked.
The main rumour about Jesus seems to be that he is someone (John the Baptist or a prophet) who has been resurrected from the dead. In our church, week after week, we hear the spoiler that Luke’s gospel will end with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus coming back to life is not unusual for us to think about. However, the crowds in this passage have no idea about this yet. Resurrection was not a part of their daily life or a major expectation for the future. For them to have concluded that he must be a powerful guy from the past who’s been resurrected, Jesus’ actions must have completely shocked and confused them, blowing their expectations of “normal religious guy” out of the water.
In all of the speculation, there is the assumption that Jesus’ power to heal, cast out demons, to calm storms, to raise the dead and teach with authority … there is the assumption that his authority and power are not his own. The assumption is that Jesus’ power has come from someone else more powerful that he – because after all, everyone knows that he’s just a carpenter who hangs out with fishermen. If he is doing anything special, it must be because he’s one of those powerful religious guys from the past. God must have brought him back from the dead. The assumption is that Jesus has no real power of his own.
In Luke 9:18-20, the disciples report these rumours to Jesus himself, as Jesus asks them what the crowds are thinking. Jesus then turns the question back toward them: “But what about you… who do YOU say that I am?”.
Peter’s response reveals that finally, someone has figured out that Jesus is God’s Messiah (Messiah = King). That Jesus’ power is because of who he actually is himself. It’s not from someone else. He is God’s King. Yes, he is a human descendent in the biological line of David, but he is much more than your average Israelite King, destined to mess up. He’s God himself. He does stuff only God can do, not because he’s a resurrected prophet, but because he is God.
How does Jesus confront your expectations? He’s not just another normal religious guy – but who is he? Luke’s gospel shows us that he’s God himself. He’s God – but chose to walk with people and experience all of life and it’s mess and relationships, just like we experience. He’s God – but was killed then resurrected – not to reveal the power of an old prophet, but to bring new life from God directly to humanity. Who do you say that he is? How does the reality of Jesus confront you?
Head: Do you think more about Jesus as God or as human?
Heart: Who do you say that Jesus is? How does he confront your expectations about life?
Hands: Is there someone in your life that you could ask “who do you say that Jesus is?” and listen carefully to their response?
Prayer: Father God, thank you for sending your Son to our messed up world. It’s hard to comprehend all of your power as God in the person of Jesus, but please help me to grow in understanding who he is. It’s beyond all my expectations that you should enter into the mess of the world and experience it first hand. Thank you for your compassion towards humanity in coming into the world, not just to experience it, but to die for sin and recreate all things in your resurrection. Thank you for making me new in Jesus’ resurrection. I pray all this in the name of Jesus, your powerful Messiah, Amen.
A song to listen to: Our Saviour and Our King
Katharine Yock- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- South Bank