Focal Passage: Luke 9:18-26
One of the more fascinating exchanges in the New Testament happens in this passage of Scripture. Jesus asked his followers what others were saying about him. They offered a variety of answers – John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets.
These answers were not somehow related to Eastern mysticism or reincarnation. Rather, people were associating Jesus with an Old Testament prophet or the forerunner of the Messiah, identified in the Old Testament as Elijah. Then Jesus made the question personal to his followers, “Who do you say I am?”
This question is one of the most important questions we could possibly answer. C.S. Lewis observed concerning Jesus’ identity, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”
Jesus claimed the power of God, the authority of God and to be God.
Jesus’ claim to be God underscores every other perception of who he is. Also, we must not read a postmodern viewpoint into this question. Who we say Jesus is has no bearing whatsoever on who Jesus actually is.
Jesus was not, with his disciples or modern readers, giving us the authority to define who he is to us. Rather, Jesus asked his disciples, and by extension readers today, to acknowledge his true identity.
Peter’s correct answer emphasizes this point. Peter accurately identified Jesus as the Messiah and Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16). Jesus confirmed his identity by commending Peter’s answer. Jesus then demanded wholehearted devotion, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Jesus’ identity, as the Messiah Son of God, grants him the right to demand our unfettered allegiance.
My identity – your identity – is predicated on Jesus’ identity as Lord and Messiah. We must follow him.