How would you answer this questions today: “Who do you say that I am?” It almost feels like a pop quiz, like Jesus has called us for a little chat and it happens to be in front of His Father. No pressure.
We have all wondered from time to time what others say about us. Jesus, in either a moment of teaching or a moment of clarifying how much the apostles understood, asked his apostles who people said He was. They gave various answers. Then came the haunting question.
“But who do you say that I am?”Matthew 16:15 NIV
I find it meaningful to dig down into this question by emphasizing one word at a time.
But who do you say that I am?
When I focus on the last word of Jesus’ great question, I notice it is in the present tense. AM.
Two thousand years later, I still hear Him ask me this same question. Not who was I when I walked the earth? Not what did I do (died for my sins to open the bridge to heaven for all). He asks in the present tense: who am I to you?
It is the same question I grappled with in my teens and twenties and still grapple with now, as a retired sales executive in a Christian writing and speaking career. Who am I? For me, Jesus is very much a part of who I am.
How would I answer that question of Jesus’ today? How would you, if He asked you?
But who do you say that I…
Who is Jesus to me? Because His Father sent him to be incarnated within young Mary—the teen who God preserved from sin to be worthy to bear His Son. The I, the God/man, the Son of God, the humble One, bears the name Jesus, which the angel Gabriel instructed Him to be named (Matthew 1:21).
God has avoided any other names. “I AM” is the only answer He gives Moses. God is not concerned with what name people call Him. He’s more concerned with having a relationship with us. When He tried all sorts of manner of developing that relationship, He finally sent His Son. His Spirit prophesied it through the prophets.
The “I” in this question begs us to recognize Him, the one whose name requires we honor it. If the name is holy, no wonder we have some difficulty answering who the I is…
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:10-11 JKV
But who do you say that…
That thing you say about Jesus. What is it? What is that relationship?
What is it we say about him? Do we get all tongue-tied? Have we tried to use our own words instead of anyone elses? Is that what Jesus wants to hear from you and me, that. . .?
But who do you say …
Now we’re getting to the core of this question? What do we say? Do we say anything at all?
Are we silent, pondering like Mary, keeping all these things we think and read in the Bible and other sacred reading to ourselves? If that is a good thing, then why is Jesus asking His apostles what they are saying about Him?
It’s important to Jesus that we say His name, that we tell others about who we believe in and how that relationship matters to us.
When was the last time you said His name or what He means to you and who He is to you in a conversation outloud? St. Paul instructed the people of Philippi that “every tongue should confess His name.”
Are you embarassed to say His name outloud?
But who do you…
Yes, you. Jesus is looking at you and me. Can you see His face with that loving look? How tender, how deep He looks into our soul. Have you imagined those gentle eyes, that slight smile that communicates without words how much He loves you?
Just as we cherish a handwritten letter or video from a loved one, so Jesus cherishes what you and I say about Him.
But who do…
DO you say anything about Him?
DO others hear us speak His name, share what He means to us? Or do we keep that private?
DO we sense Him waiting to hear us not only call to Him, but speak of Him?
Who is He to us, this Jesus? How far do we keep Him away from us?
Do we locate Him far away in heaven somewhere? How far do we think He really is from us? Who is this Jesus to us? Someone closer than our breath?
Someone who lives within us? Who knows our every thought? Who knew us before we were conceived in our mother’s womb?
Look how intimately He spoke to Jeremiah.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.Jeremiah 1:5 NIV
Imagine Jesus says your name after the words above “I knew you.” Trust those words.
We put a lot of “buts” in our relationships, don’t we? We excel at rationalizing our faith, our prejudices, the way we hold certain opinions of others.
After Jesus hears all that the people are saying about Him from the apostles, He adds the important “but.” It’s as if He tells them, what I most want to hear is what YOU think.
It’s as if He’s saying to you and me, I know you don’t know quite how to put who I am to you into words, but if you did know, what would you say?
You are the love from which I love. You are the source of all my longings. You are a joy so jubilant and a tenderness so sweet on my lips that I melt away in self forgetfulness. You are so pure I cannot approach and so great, I cannot imagine. You are my love. My everything.
In my award-winning memoir, I explore the question of Jesus can be my best friend and how I discovered Jesus wooing me for years. Click here to read what others said about the memoir and here to read the first two chapers free. Available as ebook, audiobook, and softcover.