These days people seem to have opinions on just about everything. They may even have opinions of who Jesus was (and is)—and on who we are too—but then that’s nothing new.
In Biblical times people had opinions about Jesus. They were the results of what they had seen for themselves or what they‘d heard from others. And that included not only facts, but expectations of who they wanted him to be. And the same would be true for us today too. After all, some people could claim they know us personally, while others might say “I’ve been told all about you.” In either case people’s opinions will be based on reality or on the expectations of who they think we are.
But if we are told about someone by their history—by a series of events—it doesn’t necessarily tell us what kind of person that they really are. After all a Buddhist monk completed a three-year Christian theological degree yet remained a practicing Buddhist. And the attitude to Jesus in New Testament times was that the crowd often misunderstood who Jesus was; they didn’t have a clear understanding of who he was at all. And what makes it harder still, is that just because someone does certain things and says certain things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are who they say they are. So a description of a series of events may be interesting, and even may say something about a person, but it really doesn’t describe who a person is at all.
So how did people in biblical times know who Jesus was? Well at this point in his story, the disciples had begun to learn who Jesus was, even if at this stage it still wasn’t clear. Like the crowds, they had witnessed many things—his miracles, his teaching, and the way he cared for others. But as disciples they had also witnessed a man with emotions, feelings, concerns and an overwhelming desire to tell people about his Father. And he had given them plenty of opportunities to build a relationship with him.
So when Jesus asked that question, “Who do people say that I am?” he may have expected some sort of answer based on his history—on the historical events that people had seen or heard about. He may have even expected an answer based on people’s hopes and expectations. But when he asked Peter directly, he got a much more intimate insight. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Now today we know who Peter thought Jesus was—we have it in black and white. But who do people think that we are?
If people can only describe us by a string of historical events, or by their hopes and expectations of us, then they really don’t know us at all. But if they can describe who we are because of our emotions and feelings, our hopes and our dreams, and our enthusiasm for the gospel, then they may well have a better idea of who we really are.
After all, as Christians, how passionate are we in our faith? And is that passion something that people can clearly see as we go around sharing the good news of Jesus.
Posted 15th November 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis