“Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
Our words change us. Everything we utter has power.
God created the world with spoken word: “Let there be…. and there was.” Jesus healed people with a spoken word. The spoken Gospel, empowered by the Holy Spirit has the power to break the shackles of bondage and shine light into darkness.
But words can also be used to conceal the truth, to deceive others, and to avoid responsibility. We see plenty of that in both families and political parties (even the religious elite of Jesus’ day).
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples “Who do others say that I am?” They give Him the feedback: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then Jesus drills in closer to home: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, always ready with an answer, blurts out, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Then something interesting happens. Jesus commends Peter for the insight that the Father had given him … and then changes Peter’s identity! “Blessed are you Simon…. You are now Peter….”
“Who do you say I am?”
Jesus does not ask the question out of curiosity. Nor is He seeking information. He poses the question for its transformational potential. He intends that our response form the basis for renewal and change within us. After all, words are double-sided: They reveal what we think, and they shape how we think. As we speak words (particularly if we repeat words) those very words form new patterns within us. They affect our view of life and the world. They alter us.
That’s why words matter. And that’s why this Jesus Question has such significance. It invites us to speak, to declare, to affirm…to change.
“Who do you say I am?”
The question probes deeper than “Who do you think I am?” It invites us to collect our thoughts and turn them into public declaration; spoken words. And as we speak the truth about Christ, we come to believe the truth about Christ. Truth unexpressed becomes doubtful. Truth concealed becomes uncertain. Truth hidden becomes lost.
Today, who will we say that Jesus is? In the course of conversation with others, what will we say about Him, if anything at all? This is not an exhortation to share our faith, but an invitation to deepen our faith, to let spoken words about Christ become formative words within our own lives.
Peter surely never anticipated that his brief declaration (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”) would result in such a climactic change for himself. We might be surprised to find that it has similar power for us, too.