Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ 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.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’
Luke 9:18-20 (NIV)
[Note: The following post was first published on 16th August 2019 under the title ‘Who is Jesus?’]
Read: Luke 9:18-27
Consider: Jesus’ question to the disciples, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?‘, could be seen as merely a prelude to his question directed to them, ‘But what about you? Who do you say I am?‘ We must remember that the crowds had seen Jesus perform many miracles, all of which should have made them think about Jesus’ identity. Yet the views of the crowd showed that they missed who Jesus really was. The disciples told Jesus that the opinions of the crowd were that he could be John the Baptist, Elijah, or a prophet of old come back to life.
The opinions of the crowd in Jesus’ time can be contrasted with the opinions expressed by society today. There are those today who see Jesus as nothing more than:
– a great moral teacher (similar to Ghandi or Confusius), whose teaching is insightful and, if followed, should lead to a better society;
– a prophet (someone who speaks of spiritual things), whose words may or may not resonate with the needs of society;
– a miracle worker who was able to do wonderful things, or a ‘magician’ who was able to fool those around him.
All these views miss the point of who Jesus really is and ignore the evidence given in the Bible.
Returning to Luke 9, it is clear that Jesus was concerned about the crowd. He wants to know if people are just being swept along with the crowd, or have they come to their own conclusions about who he is. Because the crowd is made up of individuals, this means that Jesus is interested in what an individual thinks. His second question, directed at the disciples, leaves no room for individuals to hide in the crowd. There is no hiding when Jesus asks: ‘But what about you? Who do you say I am?‘ (v20). Peter’s answer, ‘God’s Messiah‘, is different to what the crowd thought, and shows the journey of faith the disciples were on with Jesus. Why was their view different to that of the crowd? We must remember that not only did the disciples see Jesus perform miracles and listened to him teach, they were also able to see if his daily life lived up to his words.
There are a few lessons for us in this passage from Luke. Firstly, it is always important to look beyond the evidence for Jesus presented in the Bible and ask ourselves what it tells us about Jesus’s true identity. Secondly, the view of the crowd (society) is one thing, but God asks us to make up our own minds about who Jesus is. This means that, as Christians, we will generally stand out from the crowd in terms of what we believe. Thirdly, the journey to faith can be short for some, coming quickly to understand their need of forgiveness and salvation. For others it can take some time before they finally accept God’s sovereignty over their lives and surrender to Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
Pray: Father, we pray for those who hear the gospel message, that they might recognise who Jesus is and what he has done for them on the cross. We ask for those who are still on the journey of discovering their faith, that your Holy Spirit might work in their hearts to bring them to a point of commitment to you. Amen