Jesus poses the question to his followers “Who do you say I am?” in Matthew 16:13-16, Mark 8:27-29, and Luke 9:18-20. When we listen to the question, we hear a surface level answer “some say John the Baptist, still others Elijah, while others one of the prophets”. But Jesus is looking for a deeper answer “who do you say I am?” Simon responds, “You are the Messiah”. But in in effect the Messiah was something they did not expect. Jesus was not a political Messiah who would free Jews from the Romans. But are we today to answer also with surface level answers? Jesus’ is someone far beyond our words or labels. In effect, the question is an existential question. A question which could have an infinite ending. When Moses asks the burning bush for a name God answers, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14).
This question is also for us today.
“Who do you say I am”?
We can answer on the surface. “John Smith” or “Marie Li” or “John Dumas”.
But, if it is God who is actually giving the answer, the question then becomes an existential question also. Do we realise we reflect the infiniteness of God? How do we approach the mystery of who we are becoming as human beings?
When I came home yesterday from work, I knew I had to cook dinner. My kids said, “can I use the computer”. I quickly responded “yes”. This was an easy answer. I did not have to do much. Then when dinner was ready, my kids asked, “can we watch tv while we eat dinner”. I responded “yes” as this was the easy answer. If I responded know to both of these questions, I would choose the harder path. A path where my kids would either have to read books, or play games. Why do we continually go back to the easy answer? To use the electronic device?
At the end of Johns Gospel, Jesus’ asks Peter the question “do you love me” (21:15). Peter as a married man, and most likely a parent also, Peter answers “I love you”. This question is posed to us today as well, “do you love me”? But the answer is not a surface level answer. It has a deeper meaning, because if we truly loved the other, we would not choose the easier path. We would love the harder path. Love requires us to look beyond what we can see. The path which has an infinite ending. Challenging our kids when they ask the easy road out is an expression of a deeper love.
When we think of the question “Who do you say I am”, do not answer with “John Smith” or “Marie Li” or “John Dumas”, rather answer “I am a husband”, “I am a daughter”, “I am a grandma” or “I am a lay Marist”. These answers give infinite possibilities of who we are. We have a role to play in this world which is not confined by what we think, but reflects the love of God who lives inside of us.
‘Who do you say I am’ is transformational for us today when we recognise its deeper meaning. This love is not our love. This is God’s love. God’s love which we model through the first disciples, Mary, and Jesus Christ. And whose source is ultimately….God. The infinite one.