Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’
I wonder what prompted Jesus to ask the question ‘who do you say that I am?’ Was he concerned about the way he was being understood by the crowds? The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus was misunderstood by people on a number of occasions – the crowds, the religious authorities, and even the inner circle of disciples show spectacular displays of misunderstanding. Did Jesus need confirmation that he was getting his message across – as Luke recounts this incident we are still quite early on in Jesus’ ministry? Did he want to test the disciples to see if they had a deeper perception of who he was then those who followed at a greater distance?
On this occasion Peter responds with a flash of insight and an affirmation of faith, ‘The Messiah of God.’ I wonder how Jesus felt hearing Peter’s response?
Was there excitement, and yet relief, that someone understood, that someone had been able to put together the pieces of the jigsaw and the picture had emerged? Was there a sense of satisfaction that a marker of understanding had been achieved and it was full steam ahead with the Gospel message? Was there self-affirmation that this was the ministry to which he had been called and which he now exercised?
We cannot know the answers, but I think we can identify with the wondering, as in the differing contexts of relationships, family, employment or church we will have asked other people, ‘who do you say that I am?’ as we have sought affirmation, confirmation or a measure of how people perceive and understand us. I hope that often we have been affirmed, and that on occasions when we have been disappointed or hurt we have found ways to work through these experiences but on each occasion we have been able to respond by saying ‘I am beloved of God, made in God’s image and likeness.’
Creating God, you have made me your beloved, made in your image and likeness. Help me to really believe this is the case especially when the responses of others have belittled, disappointed or hurt me. Help me to celebrate that I am your beloved as I accept myself. Help me to recognise this reality in others as I seek to love my neighbour. Amen.
The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson, Minister, East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate.