Matthew 16 vs 13 - 16
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
"O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!” This is our cultural snippet for the week and of course living in a region where the Ulster Scots dialect is widely appreciated many will know what this means and probably could tell me who said it. The English translation first and the author at the end; “Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us.” Isn’t it telling when we discover how others see us and measure how their opinion of us matches or contradicts our perception of ourselves? Sometimes it’s a rude awakening.
Of course Jesus knew well his identity and what his mission was on earth. He had steadfastly resisted the temptation to hype up his reputation and whip up a Messianic fervour that had more to do with nationalist politics than the kingdom of God, and yet the time must come for people to see beyond the miracles and signs to his real identity. The opportunity came to sound out his disciples on that very point as they travelled around the northern region of Caesarea Philippi and he popped the question. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” In other words, who do people think I am... what do they say about me? Clearly from the answers the disciples gave the people understood that Jesus was a great man of God, John the Baptist reincarnated, or Elijah or one of the prophets all forerunners but not the Messiah.
We don’t know if Jesus was disappointed by this or concerned that still people had not twigged to his true identity but in a sense that wasn’t nearly as important a knowing if his own disciples understood who he was and what he was about so he turned the question round and applied it to the disciples themselves. As so often in the past it was Peter who was first to answer “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” At least that much was understood but what did they grasp of his mission? What was their perception concerning the Messiah, what did they expect from Jesus? Much the same as everyone else it would seem. Whilst they got that Jesus was the Messiah they had no understanding of his work as Jesus would go on to describe it nor did they know how it would impact their own lives.
Like these men when we come to Jesus and accept him as Lord we should not imagine that is all there is to know and all that he expects of us. It’s been said with some justification that Jesus doesn’t call converts but followers. Discipleship means following where Jesus leads and doing his work, and it’s best we know that will be demanding. Jesus had a lot to teach his disciples about the cost of being a disciple which at that point they did not know and could not take. At some point though the penny dropped and John would later write about the kind of life that exposed true faith. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John2:6) It simply confirms that the teaching and example of Jesus once they had all passed through the trauma of the crucifixion and the joy of resurrection were lessons well learned and sometimes it is in the crucible of trial that the keenest lessons are learned. The disciple after all should walk as Jesus did.
The author in question was of course the Bard of Ayrshire Rabbie Burns.