18 Once when Jesus* was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ 19They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ 20He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah* of God.’
Now, we come back to the question. The disciples asked it when he calmed the storm, “Who is this man that even the winds and the sea obey him?” Herod asked, “Who is this about whom I hear such things?” Surely the people in the crowds must have wondered. Now Jesus turns to the disciples and he asks them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Luke does not put this event in a specific location, nor does “once” set it chronologically – but logically, after Jesus has fed the multitude, as God fed the people of Israel in the wilderness, after others have asked the question. Mark sets the event near Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27), where Jesus and the disciples would have seen the pagan temples. But in Luke, Jesus is asking a timeless question not related to the location. “Who do they say that I am?”
The disciples reply that some say he is John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah; or one of the ancient prophets. Even today, there are those who believe Jesus was a prophet, or a wise teacher, including the Jews and even the Muslims. Even atheists will generally concede that he was a wise teacher. But Christians believe something very different.
Jesus then asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” “Messiah” is the same as “Christ” – both mean the “anointed one” – and refer to the prophets who said that God would send a Savior for Israel. Others would claim to be “Messiah” but only Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah. Peter has come to an “epiphany”, an insight, a moment of clarity – this Jesus whom he followed came from God. But this was a partial revelation; Peter still had much to learn about what “Messiah” really meant!
But what if Jesus asked us, “But who do you say that I am?” Is he Savior – Friend – Emanuel – Light to our path – God in human flesh – Son of God – a part of God in the Trinity – Lord – King? Who is Jesus to you?
photo is ruins at Caesarea Philippi