A Question of Identity: Matthew 16:15. “Who do you say that I am?”
Pastor Jim was asked to visit an elderly lady in a nursing home; he was aware that her memory was not very good. He walked up to her and asked, “Do you know who I am?” She smiled and said, “No, Sonny I don’t, but if you go over to the reception desk, they will tell you who you are!” That was not the answer he was expecting.
There are times when God asks his followers a question. In the Garden of Eden, God asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” God knew where they were, but they did not.
The disciples were visiting Caesarea, Philippi near the foot of snow covered Mt. Hermon, when Jesus asked them “Who do you say that I am?” They had already said who others said He was, now for the first time Jesus openly challenged his disciples to say who they personally thought Him to be. Upon Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah; Jesus begins telling them of His forthcoming death. He was preparing the disciples for the coming events of His Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Against the peaceful backdrop of the verdant slopes and forest, Jesus speaks of the religious leaders preparing to maltreat him, kill him; and that he would arise from the dead three days later.
Peter is so upset he does not seem to take in the last part about resurrection. After Jesus rebuked Peter, He made an incredible statement to the disciples. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Vs. 24) Peter had tried to deflect Jesus from His destiny, and Jesus is here saying to them, the time has come to face up to your own cross; to pick it up right now, and to follow Him.
Pick Up Your Cross
The Cross was a familiar sight to the people in Israel. The Roman conquerors used it as a terrifying form of death with torture. Traveling the roads one would often come upon a person on a cross; sometimes taking three days to die.
Without having first really identified who Jesus is, you have no motivation to face the hardships that accompany the real follower of Jesus. You have to take a good look at who Jesus really is, in order to become a disciple in the true sense of the word. Six days after asking them who they thought He was, he took Peter, James and John up on the mountain, and was transfigured in front of them. They never forgot that experience. Peter wrote, we “were eyewitnesses of his majesty,” James remembered Jesus as “the Lord of Glory” and John said, “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” ( 2 Peter 1:16, James 2:1, John 1:14)
It took a while for the disciples to understand who Jesus really is, and perhaps you are somewhere in that process today. Before considering taking up your cross, spend some time reading the Gospels, for they record the factual accounts of Jesus life and teachings. Make up your mind about Jesus first, then you can think about being a cross carrying follower.
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, please open my understanding, as you did the first disciples, and help me to see you for who you really are. Amen.”