Who Do You Say That I Am?

by Robin Puchala

Image by Sharon Tate Soberon
CC BY ND 2.0

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am”? Matthew 16:15

Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” What would prompt a question like that? In Jesus’ timeline it is growing close to His crucifixion, but His disciples are unaware of this. Jesus has been teaching them for almost three years and they have shared life and broken bread together hundreds of times.

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus gives them valuable advice for their future, ”Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees”; but the disciples miss the point — they are still thinking with their natural minds, so they think He is making reference to the bread they haven’t eaten. What a shock for Jesus to think they completely miss His meaning saying, “How is it that you do not understand?” (v. 11).

I don’t think I’m ascribing to Jesus’ emotions if I point out that he must have felt a sting of disappointment and concern — these were His future leaders, His Generals if you will, who would carry on in His absence.

As he travels with them to Caesarea Philippi, seeing the crowds, he ventures a similar question, “Who are people saying that I am?” What have you heard? And they answered him saying, “Elijah or one of the other prophets.”

Jesus had strong emotions. He loved deeply, was attached to His friends and disciples and sensed who needed Him most in the crowds. In Tom Holladay’s book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus,  he discusses how Jesus used and experienced His emotions like: crying with friends over Lazarus’ death, providing for His Mother while dying on the cross.

So think of Jesus in this moment as we approach the question in our Bible verse. Was He discouraged? Was he feeling betrayed? Did a bit of hopelessness creep in? How do you think he is feeling right then when He turns to His disciples who are His best friends and co-laborers and asks them, “But you — who do you say that I am?” (from the Greek Translation.)

Tears sting my eyes as I write this because I know He has sometimes asked me the same thing. So, I’m asking you and I’m asking myself — what do our prayers (or lack of them), our words, actions and attitudes say to Him about who He is to us? How can we spare our Savior any more disappointment, or heartache?

Don’t let me be the one, Lord, that forces you to ask — is this all I am to you? Is this who I am?

It’s Lent, dear ones — if not now, when?