“Who do you say that I am, asks the Lord?”
Some wonder: could He be a prophet like John the Baptist? But if Jesus was a prophet, then we are just worshipping a dead prophet.
Could He be Elijah? Elijah supposedly ascended bodily into the heavens, so perhaps Jesus is Elijah, returning to the world. But if so, then all we have left is a dead Elijah.
Could He be the Christ, as Peter finally says? “Christ” is Greek for Messiah, meaning the “anointed one,” the person for whom the Jews had been waiting to liberate them from their oppressors. And of course, Jesus is the Christ. But He does not indicate in this passage of Luke that this is the right answer. He simply stops the questioning at that point, perhaps because Peter’s is the best answer so far, and it begins a dialogue which Jesus will complete next week on St Peter’s day.
But it is still not enough – because if Jesus were just a messiah, then all we would have left is a dead messiah.
That is why Jesus gives an answer which confounds all their expectations. He is destined not, like the awaited Messiah, to conquer, but to die and – most importantly – to be raised up on the third day. What’s more, He promises that those who follow Him in that Crucifixion by renouncing their lives, their selves, will join Him through the Resurrection in eternal life. Jesus is exercising the judgment of our souls which belongs to God alone.
So, as the Pharisees asked last Sunday – who is this, who even forgives sins?
The options, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, are either that Jesus was deluded – a madman – or, that He was God. And as we worship Him, either we are proclaiming Him as God, or we are idolaters. The stakes are high.
So, who do you say that He is?