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Matthew 16:13-19

And you, who do you say I am?

Jesus, the greatest teacher of all, often asked His disciples tough questions, putting them in the spotlight, faced with clear decisions to make: Who do people say that I am? He asks them. He starts with the easy and safe question, one that places no blame on the disciples if they cannot answer it. At the time, there were many rumors circling around, people talking about this man who did wondrous things. But its the same today as people still wonder: Who is this Jesus? Even our friends and the people around us ask themselves (and sometimes ask us) about this! And many answers exist: There are those who wonder if He ever existed; Others say Hes a great spiritual teacher like Buddha, Confucius, or the Dalai Lama Some say a great moral and political leader like Gandhi; Or also a great prophet, like Mohammad... and many other answers exist!

At that time, the disciples name some of the greatest prophets in the history of Israel, and reply to Jesus: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some prophet. But then, Jesus asks the more dangerous question: Who do you say that I am? Why is it dangerous? Simply because of the consequences of the possible answers. We need to understand that this question comes after the disciples have seen many acts of Jesus, things they hadnt seen before: Healing of the sick, casting of demons, forgiveness of sins, feeding crowds of thousands, walking on water, even raising the dead. So it is after doing all of these acts in front of them, that he turns the question into a personal one and asks them: Who do you say I am? And Simon, inspired by the Spirit, answers: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

By this declaration he acknowledges total faith in Him, not only as the Messiah, but as the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate Word of God who became a man to suffer for the salvation of the world, conquer death and give us life. So that is not a simple statement that Simon is making. But Jesus recognizes this. He looks into Simons heart and he sees his sincerity. So He does 3 things: a) He blesses Simon; b) He changes his name to Peter; c) He makes a divine promise to him, anointing him as the rock on whom His church was to be built. He gives Peter power, responsibility and a mission.

What Jesus does is very similar to 2 other passages in the Old Testament: Abraham and Jacob are two men to whom God chose to reveal Himself. When they accepted and believed, they received many blessings. Genesis 17:1-8: God changes Abrams name to Abraham and promises him many descendants; Genesis 32:22-29: where God blesses Jacob and changes his name to Israel.

Now all that makes me think: We are standing in front of Jesus today, and He is asking us: Who do you say that I am? Do we have an answer? What is it? And if we are going to profess the same thing that Peter did, then there is another question that follows immediately: If you say that I, Jesus, am the Messiah, the son of the living God, will you come and follow me? I am here and waiting for you: If you accept my invitation and follow my commandments, I will make you mine, I will bless you and I promise to reveal myself to you (John 14:21). I will show you my glory and you will live a fantastic adventure with me. So what do you say?

Part 2 - Jesus is recruiting!

Three years prior to his execution Jesus went in search of twelve men. Those he chose were average working class men. Some were fisherman. One was a tax collector and another was a physician. None of them would stand out in a crowd. One by one he gave each of them the same invitation. Leave behind what you are doing and come follow me. Each saw something in Jesus that caused him to leave his former life behind in order to follow him. What they saw in Jesus was so profound that it outweighed all their other options. Following Jesus became these twelve mens lives as they walked by his side for the last three years of his life here on Earth. Jesus called these 12 men his disciples. None of them could have imagined just how their decision would transform and benefit their lives. Except for the one that betrayed him, it seems certain that at the end of their lives none of them would have changed their decision to have followed Jesus despite the costs. Following Jesus started out easy enough. The disciples simply followed Jesus around. They watched, listened and learned. It was a process of discovering Jesus motivations, his attitudes and approach to life. They learned through Jesus' teachings just how differently God thinks about life, people and things than we do. It was a process of training and formation for them to start understanding the way God thinks. Yet, the purpose of following Jesus was about much more than simply observing and learning to think like Jesus thinks. Indeed, following Jesus was not a means unto itself. Rather, this was simply their training program designed to prepare them to make a shift. There came a point at which the disciples role shifted from watching and learning to that of doing. In Luke 9:1 -6, we see this shift first happen among his 12 disciples. Then, in Luke 10:1-24, Jesus sends out a large group of 72 disciples to say and do what he said and did. Finally, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells all his followers to go out and do these same things. This process of following Jesus which had begun as training had become that to become like him in motivation and behavior. It was all part of his plan to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Today, who do people say that you are? Do they see in you disciples of the greatest master that ever lived? Are you simply following Jesus around by physically walking behind Him? Or are you ready to make this shift and start acting as disciples? But why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do the things which I say? - Luke 6:46 Lord Jesus, I profess and believe that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You are my Lord and my Savior. Make my faith strong and help me to live in the victory of the cross by rejecting sin and by accepting Your will. Help me to apply your teachings and live as a true disciple by Your grace, Amen.