If you surveyed 100 people off the street and asked them this question: “Who is Jesus?” – you’d get a lot of different opinions. And hardly any consensus, even among religious people. Perhaps this has more to do with people’s attitude rather than evidence about Jesus. How would you respond?
On a past trip to Africa to work with brothers in Mozambique, I was privileged to be part of a Bible study with Samson Mafuta. Our study was with a young woman who expressed an interest in knowing more about the Bible. I asked her if she knew who Jesus was. She replied, “Jesus is the wind.” And so it goes.
But this is a serious question, and the Savior was quite concerned about the perception of His identity. In Luke 9, after the disciples returned from their own preaching adventures to give a report to the Lord, their time was cut short by multitudes who discovered the presence of Jesus. There was little time to talk, and in fact a meal for 5,000 had to be improvised before Jesus had a real opportunity to discuss the disciples’ experience with them.
Shortly after supper, the Lord got to the point: “Who do people say that I am?” This is the central question of the gospel message, the crux of the gospel’s power. If Jesus is not deity, He is not sinless, His sacrifice is meaningless, His teaching is fraudulent, and our lives are pitiful. It was not meant as a trivial question, for which the disciples might flippantly reply, “Oh, some say you’re the wind.” But neither was their consensus: “Some say John, some say Elijah or one of the prophets.” Then it got personal, when Jesus asked: “But who do you say that I am?”
I can imagine there was a bit of feet shuffling, eyes downcast, mumbling… and then Peter, the impetuous one, blurted out, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
We read this and think, “Well, of course.” But do we understand how absurd this statement sounded? Would the world have paid a little more attention to Jesus – and would the nobility and people of “importance” have had a different response – if it had been obvious by his appearance that he was deity? He was, after all, a carpenter, for crying out loud! A lot of people look at Jesus – personally or through scripture – but very few see Him. They don’t see what He’s done, how He changes lives, what He demands in service. But we have to see Him as God, and have to understand what that means before we can begin to understand what discipleship is all about.
Jesus restricted the disciples from revealing what Peter had confessed. It was not yet time for this dramatic information to be made known publically. Jesus had not yet died, the payment for sin had not yet been made. Later, at Pentecost, Peter would proclaim it boldly, but not yet.
Then Jesus described for His disciples what would happen to Him, and to them! There was some serious suffering to come, and if they were determined to be disciples, they had to prepare for it. So do we.
We must prepare ourselves for difficult lives. Jesus said the way is narrow and strait, a winding, meandering existence that sometimes takes us to strange places and strange circumstances. We must prefer the salvation of our souls rather than anything the world has to offer – secular concerns, material indulgence, power, station in life, etc. The kingdom of God does not run parallel with the world, it runs in the opposite direction. We must even believe that if we lose our lives for the cause of the Lord, we will be saved by Him.
Ultimately, what matters is what our relationship with Jesus says about Him. Will those who watch us, believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God? What do our lives say about Jesus? How do we live? It isn’t about being at services all the time, or listening to the sermon, or taking the Lord’s supper, or putting a fat check in the collection plate. How do we live? Do we lie? Do we steal? Do we cheat? Do we deceive? Do we hate? Do we harm? Do we speak evil? Our discipleship is on display every day by the way we behave, and the way we behave is a testimony to what we believe about Jesus.
Do we say powerful things about the Lord? Or is our discipleship a secret? Are we embarrassed to be a servant, hating a life of service to others? Does anyone know about Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, because they’ve seen the way we live?
May grace reign through righteousness in your life.
– Bo Couchman