Picture Jesus with His twelve disciples. They had left the comfort of Galilee, the comfort of family and friends, of the like-minded (Jewish) and friendly, to trek twenty-five miles north. They walked away from Capernaum, the hub of Jesus’ ministry, bound for the city of Caesarea Philippi on the border of the Gentile world. Philippi was a city that Phillip built for one of the Caesars. It sat at the base of Mount Hermon and claimed one of the largest springs that fed the river Jordan.
The abundant water and fertile land attracted many religious sects who built temples in the area. In fact, the spring emerged from a cave which became the center of pagan worship. It was in this place that Jesus asked two very important questions. The first question is found in Matthew 16:13:
"Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" On the surface this seems like a benign question. I can imagine them just outside the pagan temples, possibly surrounded by many pagan worshippers. Perhaps some of them were even listening in on the conversation?
And so His disciples started answering, "Some say you are John the Baptist. We remember King Herod propagating that myth! Others say you are Elijah, the great prophet! Others say that you are Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets." The twelve did not just imagine this. In Luke 9 we see that Herod had also heard all these things and was questioning them.
Brothers and sisters, fellow laborers for the King, in our world today if we ask this same question about Jesus, we will get just as many varied answers as Jesus got! My question is, how do we respond?
I love what Jesus did. He did not leave them “hanging.” He did not let their answers go unanswered. He asked them the most important question we can ask people. "But who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:15) Jesus wasn’t satisfied with them quoting others' opinions; He went to the heart. He made it personal!
More and more I am seeing that when I deal with people and issues, it is very helpful to have them verbalize the issue at hand. Once they do, it seems to internalize and settle whatever is going on inside. And I believe that is what Jesus is doing here. He wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they understood who He was!
And Peter did not disappoint. "Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'" (Matt. 16:16). The Christ, Anointed One; the Messiah! Not a prophet; not Elijah, Jeremiah, or John the Baptist, but the Messiah! A very clear, concise answer!
I wonder how many people will miss Heaven because I did not “close the sale.” Maybe it was fear that kept me from pressing in; maybe ignorance, feelings of doubt or insufficiencies. Whatever the case, I left them hanging and can only trust in the grace of the Father.
Fellow laborers, let’s not faint in the task that we have been called to. Let us be as bold as Jesus and as confident as Peter! Let us not fear man, but keep pressing in until the harvest is complete!