Everything Jesus has been doing in Matthew, so far, has been preparing the disciples for the hard work that was to come when Jesus left them. They were having a very hard time understanding everything he was telling them.
When he asked them who people were saying he was he just wanted to get a feel for who they perceived him to be. They knew he was someone with special gifts. They weren’t beyond thinking that he could be one of the Prophets from the OT but not one of them considered that he might be the Savior the OT predicted would come. No one thought that he could be the Messiah…except Peter.
Even with that Peter didn’t really grasp what that meant for the world. They still thought the Messiah would have such power that all the oppression they’d been suffering at the hands of the Romans would miraculously end. It didn’t.
So, when Peter declared that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, that was a big thing. It meant that somehow he knew Jesus, his friend, his Teacher, was the One who would save the world. He didn’t know how but he knew through God’s Spirit revealing to him that Jesus was the One sent from God.
All the disciples heard Peter’s declaration and were prepared to follow him to the end. They just didn’t know what the end was going to be…even though Jesus had told them he would have to suffer and be crucified by the Pharisees in Jerusalem.
They just believed that he was the One chosen by God to be the Savior of their world. They just didn’t realize, or didn’t think that it could happen to Jesus, what often happened when someone’s at the top of the pile. There’s usually someone who wants to knock them off and take over the top spot.
Think about this. At the end of a sporting season, basketball, football, baseball, hockey, soccer, it happens in all sports, there’s a huge turnover in the coaching staff, especially if the team has had a less than stellar season.
So, a new coach is hired and all the publicity says that they’re the ones who can turn the team around. They’re the ones who can get the team to the playoffs. Shoot, some are so good they’re the ones who will get them the pennant or trophy.
And then the season begins and maybe the team starts out doing pretty good. But midway through the season things go downhill and who’s the one who takes the brunt of the blame? It’s the coach. Sometimes feeling run so high that there’s talk of sacking them without even seeing if the team can turn itself around. We’ve all seen it happen. It has even happened with the leaders voted into office as senators and representatives and even presidents.
Jesus knew this was what was waiting for him in Jerusalem and he wanted to prepare the disciples for it. But they just didn’t get it or just couldn’t believe that’s what would really happen.
But us, what about us? We know what happened in Jerusalem. We know what happened to the disciples. We know how the early Christians were persecuted. We know all that.
So, when we’re questioned about who Jesus is or why we worship Jesus or why we believe that he died for our sins how do we answer?
It depends on our faith. It depends where we are on our walk with Jesus. It depends on how our faith has been tested and tried. It depends.
My friends, we hope that what we read in the Bible is right. We hope that one day there will be peace on earth. We hope that one day Christ will return and the dead will rise and we’ll be reunited with all those who’ve gone on before us. We hope.
But, do we believe? Has our relationship with Jesus become intimate enough that we can say with certainty that we will see him one day?
We can only believe if we’ve continued to work daily on our relationship with Jesus. We can only believe if we’ve read and studied and prayed and grown in our spiritual lives. We can only believe if we done all this and then risked it all to tell someone else, and someone else, until we’ve told everyone we know and meet how important Jesus is in our lives.
And it’s not all about what we say it’s also about how people see us living our lives. It’s about how they see us handling the tough things in our lives. Sometimes that is even more powerful than our words.
Friends, who is Jesus, to you? Who do you say he is? May God fill you with his wisdom, grace, and peace. Amen.