The two questions that Jesus poses to His disciples today – “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?” are questions that every disciples has to face at some time in their lives. They may be questions that we have to keep returning to as we learn more – and change throughout the course of our lives.
Jesus asks the disciples first of all what they have heard others say about Him – and they quote those who say He is John the Baptist – Jeremiah – one of the other prophets – and so on.
Then, He changes the question to “But you – who do you say I am?” They fall silent – this was obviously something they either had not given any thought to – or could not put into words if they had.
At this point, Simon Peter finds words from deep within himself as the truth about who Jesus is revealed to him.
A fisherman – more used to mending nets and catching and selling fish – finds himself at a turning point in history – when Jesus is revealed as the Christ.
Jesus recognizes that such an insight cannot come from human thinking – but is a revelation from God. He also recognizes that this sets Peter apart as someone who not only receives the revelation but is also able to speak of it. In this, we see a premonition of Peter’s speech on the first Pentecost Sunday.
Throughout our lives, we hear different things about Jesus. Some of them will help to develop our understanding about Jesus – others will challenge us – and others may confuse us.
Like Peter today, we will hear all sorts of things about Jesus – but, eventually, we will have to look at them all and decide what we believe about Jesus. This may change and grow as we change and grow – indeed it should grow and change. But always, as we reflect, we come back to the same insight – stronger and deeper – that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ – the Son of God.
And this Gospel challenges us with our own identity. We are Christ’s presence any time we forgive, offer encouraging words, show mercy and compassion. In all these and many other ways, we witness to our identity as church- as the presence of the risen Christ made visible in and through us. Such an identity we share.