On This Rock
Who do people say the Son of Man is?
It was quite a question Jesus asked his disciples one day at Caesarea Philippi. What's the buzz in the community? What are they saying about me?
Peter answers for the other disciples. "Some say John the Baptist." Which is weird. Because Jesus and John had been seen together in public at Jesus' baptism. It's not like John was Jesus's Clark Kent identity, and Christ was His Superman thing. Besides, John had already been beheaded by King Herod by this time.
"Others say Elijah...or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." Jewish people had high regard for their prophets. Elijah and Jeremiah were two of the rock stars among the ones God sent to speak His word to Israel and demonstrate His holiness and love to His people. And the book of another prophet, Malachi, indicated Elijah would return to prepare the way for Messiah Himself.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV)
Here's the thing. The people didn't quite have it right. They saw Jesus as a teacher and miracle worker. They saw Him as a public figure. They hoped He was God's Anointed One (that's what the word "Messiah" means). But they saw Him as a human man.
People still miss the mark when it comes to who Jesus is. Muslims and Jews regard Him as a prophet. Gandhi considered Jesus an amazing moral teacher. Some people today are skeptical that Jesus ever even lived - believing Him to be the fictional hero of people who need to believe in something to make sense of life. The common theme is to see Jesus as a human who can be categorized and kept at a safe distance. Peter saw something else.
But what about you? Who do you say I am?
Here we go. Now it gets personal. Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter. The people may have messed up ideas about who Jesus is, but what about you? Peter has witnessed the miracles. Peter has heard the insights into the Scriptures that came from God Himself and confounded the confused religious teachers of his day. And Peter came to the right conclusion:
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
This is two things. Both are important. "You are the Messiah" can state the prevailing Jewish understanding. God's Anointed One is coming to reestablish the throne of King David. Messiah will be a human king who will free Israel from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. "You are the Messiah" does not necessarily mean Peter had the understanding that changes everything: that Jesus of Nazareth, a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood human being is also the Son of the living God.
Fully human. And fully God. The Creator of the universe entered His creation and walked among us, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) The One dying on the cross is not just a well-meaning Jewish Rabbi. He is God incarnate, taking the place of sinners and paying the price for their sins.
And Jesus told Peter, "On this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Hell itself is vanquished by the Cross exactly because the One dying there was more than an ordinary man. He was the perfect Substitute.
When we, like Peter, come to this understanding and give our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord, everything changes. We become part of the Church (capital C) that Jesus is building. Our destiny changes from death to eternal life. Existence itself changes from 80 or so years of scrounging to make something of life to living for Jesus and His eternal kingdom. We not only have peace with God, knowing our sins are forgiven, we receive the Spirit of Jesus Christ which saturates everything with God's pure, unconditional love.
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. That's who you are, Jesus, to me. And I'm doing my best in my own imperfect way to live my life accordingly. To follow you. To honor you. To help others see who you are and live by this very same confession of faith. Let someone see you in me, today, Jesus. That will be enough to make my life meaningful and victorious.